The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has for the second consecutive year announced the cancellation of Hajj for foreign pilgrims.
Only 60,000 Saudi citizens and residents of all nationalities in the Kingdom will be permitted to perform the annual religious rituals.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has attributed the restriction of pilgrims to challenges in controlling crowds during an era of COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement noted that this is because of “the nature of the crowds during the Hajj which extends at different times in different and specific places according to the order of performing the rituals which makes the application of the highest levels of health precautions a very vital matter to protect the health of the pilgrims and ensure their safety.”
Would-be pilgrims, according to the Hajj authorities, are also required to among other things register electronically, be between the age group of 18 and 65 years, must be free from chronic diseases and be vaccinated in accordance with immunisation protocols of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government has also given its assurance of paying attention to care, safety and health of pilgrims as it continues to monitor global health situations with emphasis on warnings of COVID-19 spread that may be issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“It has therefore been keen to develop operational plans to achieve all requirements and the availability of all health standards,” the statement added.
About two million from across the globe perform the Hajj annually, one of the five pillars of Islam. Every Muslim, when they can, must perform the annual religious ritual once in their lifetime.
Ghana is a participatory country in the annual pilgrimage. News about the cancellation of the annual pilgrimage has come as a shock to the Islamic community in Ghana, preparations having been made by some prospective pilgrims.
In Nigeria, a country with one of the largest number of pilgrims, the news has already been broken to the Muslim population.
The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria officials in Saudi Arabia have confirmed the cancellation based on the Kigndom’s media disclosure.
The commission states that although painful, it is accepting it as Allah’s ‘divine design’.
Ghana’s Hajj Board in view of the development will issue a statement to update its clients.
By Issah Mohammed