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Saudi officials to require COVID-19 vaccine for hajj

Saudi officials to require COVID-19 vaccine for hajj

Health officials in Saudi Arabia will require a coronavirus vaccine for worshippers who want to participate in the annual hajj, according to multiple reports citing local media. 

The move was first reported by Saudi newspaper Okaz, quoting a decree from Saudi Minister of Health Tawfiq al-Rabiah. The health official called for long-term measures to organize health facilities in the holy Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, in addition to the creation of vaccine committees for attendees. 

About 3 million Muslims usually make the trip to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj, a religious pilgrimage, each year. Participants circle around Mecca's Grand Mosque, which Muslims pray toward five times a day. 

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It was not immediately clear who the Saudi health minister’s announcement was directed towards, according to multiple reports

Last June, Saudi officials announced that the country would limit the number of pilgrims allowed to participate in the hajj. Approximately 10,000 individuals attended last year after isolating for at least five days. 

Saudi Arabia has never canceled hajj in the nearly 90 years since the nation was established.

Saudi Arabia has reported nearly 400,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and over 6,500 fatalities from the coronavirus.