Hajj 2021 has been given the green signal as Saudi Arabia has announced that there will be Hajj, adhering to all safety and preventive measures to avoid Covid19.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah stated that they are considering allowing overseas Hajj pilgrims for the annual event in July but it will be on a smaller scale. The ministry is pondering the option of lifting the ban on an international flight from May 17, 2021 as the Hajj is scheduled to  take place from 17th July to 22nd July, 2021.

Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is considered the fifth pillar of Islam, requiring every Muslim to make the pilgrimage at least once in one's lifetime. Every year lakhs of people undertake the pilgrimage and arrive at Mecca from various parts of the globe.

Grand Mosque Mecca
General view of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 9, 2016.Reuters

Due to the ongoing pandemic of Covid-19, the number of pilgrims has been drastically reduced. Last year, amid the pandemic, the number of devotees was drastically scaled-down, from an estimated 25 lakh pilgrims in 2019 to around 1,000 locals and resident foreigners in 2020.

Considering this, with the pandemic still in hands and countries with a rising number of cases, allowing overseas pilgrims with the strict protocol would be challenging and risky. There is no limitation of pilgrims, and guidelines have been announced.

India ponders Hajj 2021

India has recorded 3.66 lakh fresh cases, adding to the 2.26 crore covid cases as of today, May 10, 2021. Though there is a dip in the numbers, considering the global situation, India is the second country after the US that was worst affected by the virus now and is currently struggling with medical facilities and handling lockdown in several states. Hajj, amid this peak of the second wave by the pilgrims, would be grievous.

The Haj Committee of India has already invited the applications. It has issued the guidelines stating that Hajj pilgrims this year must have two doses of vaccine and should be Covid negative before departing.  The number of applications for Hajj has also been low in numbers due to the situation, although there have been no restrictions on the number of applicants.

Saudi Arabia has 4.46 lakh Covid-19 currently. There is a spike in the number since January but the Kingdom has decided to go ahead with the pilgrimage. This is not the first time Hajj faced constraints in history. Previously, Hajj has been canceled over 40 times in history owing various challenges. In the early 18th century, owing to widespread of the plague, it was canceled considering the global condition.

While there is no respite from the Covid cases in India, the Saudi ministry's decision on lifting the ban of flights from India and other affected countries for the upcoming Hajj 2021 is still awaited.