RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has required would-be Haj pilgrims from many Western nations to use for visas through a authorities portal on-line, a transfer meant to crack down on “pretend” journey businesses, officers stated on Monday.
The brand new system was put in place as the dominion prepares to welcome 850,000 Muslims from overseas for the annual Haj after two years throughout which pilgrims not already in Saudi Arabia have been barred due to Covid pandemic restrictions.
It applies to america, Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia, stated one of many officers.
Beforehand, pilgrims may register through journey businesses that organised Haj journeys, a system that generally led to scams, with “pretend businesses” making off with victims’ cash, a second official stated.
Saudi Arabia introduced in April it could allow a million Muslims from inside and out of doors the nation to take part on this yr’s Haj.
State media introduced the net portal every week in the past, and the registration interval ended Monday, the Haj ministry stated on Twitter. Those that registered can be included in a lottery for Haj visas.
One official acknowledged that some Muslims within the affected nations might have already tried to register through journey businesses, earlier than the net portal was introduced.
He stated they’d even be included within the lottery — which has not been scheduled — offered they’d booked through an company accredited by the hajj ministry.
This yr’s pilgrimage can be restricted to vaccinated Muslims beneath the age of 65, the Haj ministry has stated.
These coming from outdoors Saudi Arabia are required to submit a adverse Covid-19 PCR outcome from a take a look at taken inside 72 hours of journey.
Saudi Arabia stated it could not require masks in most enclosed areas, citing progress in combating the pandemic.
Nonetheless, masks will nonetheless be required in Grand Mosque, which surrounds the Kaaba, and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, based on a report printed by the official Saudi Press Company, citing an inside ministry supply.
House owners of institutions may also insist masks be worn if they need, the report stated, although mask-wearing has been sparsely enforced in current months.