KUALA LUMPUR – The announcement by the Saudi government on the mandatory COVID-19 injection for this year’s hajj pilgrims is to ensure their health is in good condition, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.
Dr Zulkifli said the announcement was also an expression of the commitment of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Raja Salman Abdulaziz and Saudi’s Ministry of Health in ensuring the smooth running of the pilgrimage this year.
“Malaysia welcomes (the announcement). The Cabinet meeting this morning also took note of the need for Malaysian pilgrims to take the COVID-19 vaccine before performing the hajj.
“As for the vaccination of Malaysian pilgrims, I am still waiting for feedback from Saudi’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr Mohammed Saleh bin Tahir Benten on the total quota of Malaysian pilgrims allowed to perform the hajj this year or the standard operating procedures for performing hajj,” he said in a statement today.
Dr Zulkifli called on all Muslims to pray so that the COVID-19 pandemic would come to an end and allow the hajj to be conducted smoothly this year.
Saudi newspaper Okaz on Mar 1 had that the reported Saudi Arabia’s health ministry says only people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend the Hajj this year, .
“The COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come to the Hajj and will be one of the main conditions (for receiving a permit to come),” Monday’s report said, citing a circular signed by the health minister.
Saudi Arabia takes pride in its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and its smooth organisation of the annual Hajj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.
In 2020, the kingdom dramatically reduced the number of pilgrims allowed to attend Hajj to about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents of the kingdom, in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first time in modern times.
The congregation of millions of pilgrims from around the world can be a major cause of coronavirus transmission. In the past, worshippers have returned home with respiratory and other diseases.
In the same circular, Saudi Minister of Health Dr Tawfiq al-Rabiah said the government must be prepared to “secure the manpower required to operate the health facilities in Mecca and Medina”.
These facilities will be stationed at entry points for pilgrims, he said, in addition to a formation of a vaccination committee for pilgrims within Saudi Arabia.