Saudi Arabia is set to return to pre-pandemic numbers for the 2023 Hajj pilgrimage season.
Saudi Arabia said it won’t be placing restrictions on the number of pilgrims permitted at this year’s Hajj, scrapping limits imposed over the last few years to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The number of pilgrims will return to what it was before the pandemic, without any age limit,” Tawfiq al-Rabiah, minister of Hajj and Umrah, told reporters in Riyadh.
An estimated 2.5 million people performed Hajj in the Kingdom in 2019 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the number of visitors was drastically reduced as a result of restrictions put in place to prevent the possible spread of the Covid-19 virus.
In 2022, access was limited to pilgrims who were 18 to 65 years old, had received a complete coronavirus vaccination or immunisation, and were free of any chronic illnesses.
However, those looking to visit the holy sites during the Hajj season this year will no longer have to abide by such limits.
This year’s Hajj season is anticipated to start on June 26.
Per Islamic rulings, every able-bodied Muslim who has the financial means must perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reform plan aims to increase the number of Umrah and Hajj pilgrims to 30 million each year, which would generate some 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) in revenue by 2030.
Prior to the pandemic, the Umrah, known as the lesser pilgrimage when compared to Hajj and which can be performed at any time of the year, attracted about 19 million pilgrims annually.