Covid fears could bar Hajj pilgrims for second year
The decision would prohibit Muslims from overseas from travelling to Mecca - considered the holiest site in Islam - for the ten-day religious festival which marks the end of Ramadan.
Sources told Reuters that no final decision has been taken on whether to ban foreign visitors but the recent wave of infections in India make it likely that restrictions will be put in place for Hajj.
Saudi Minister Dr Tawfiq Rabiah said the government must be prepared to "secure the manpower required to operate the health facilities in Mecca and Medina".
Around 2.5 million pilgrims visited Mecca before the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019, making it the world's largest human gathering. A year later, only about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents were allowed to attend.
The Saudi health ministry earlier this year said that only people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to attend Hajj.
The Hajj and Umrah ministry has already implemented strict measures for people visiting Mecca for Umrah, a pilgrimage that Muslims can attend at any time of the year.
These measures require pilgrims to have been vaccinated, wear a tracking bracelet, and stick to allocated time slots.
India's healthcare system is on the verge of collapse as it tries to keep up with the terrifyingly large number of cases and deaths. The new variant is feared to have already spread, including in the Middle East.
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