All 900 pilgrims from S'pore, including 30 who caught Covid-19, set for final haj rituals

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli (centre), Islamic Religious Council of Singapore chief executive Kadir Maideen (right) and Halijah Travels' representative in Saudi Arabia on July 8. PHOTO: MUIS AND MCI

SINGAPORE - All 900 pilgrims from Singapore have arrived safely in Arafah in Saudi Arabia for the most important ritual of the haj pilgrimage, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Friday (July 8).

They include 30 pilgrims who were found to be Covid-19 positive, added Mr Masagos, who is leading this year's haj delegation.

Saudi authorities allowed them to proceed as they had either recovered or had only mild symptoms, he said to Saudi media.

Only one pilgrim is in a slightly more serious condition, added Mr Masagos, without providing further details.

He noted that the Saudi authorities would accompany the pilgrim in question to perform the remaining rites to complete the haj.

In a Facebook post, Shahidah Travel and Tours managing director Ayoob Angullia said that while some of the pilgrims travelling with the company had earlier contracted Covid-19, they have since recovered.

All 192 pilgrims who registered with Shahidah arrived safely in Arafah as at Thursday, he said.

The wukuf, or standing, in the plain of Arafah - located about 20km south-east of Mecca - is the most significant ritual of the annual pilgrimage, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so are expected to perform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

"Thankfully, all the pilgrims have been taking care of themselves, putting on their masks (and) their interactions have been well controlled," said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development.

This has controlled the spread of Covid-19 among pilgrims despite their close living conditions, he added.

Mr Masagos said feedback from the various tour agencies leading the pilgrims indicated that they are satisfied with the service provided by the Saudi authorities and officials from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

This year marks the first time Singapore Muslims have been able to go for the haj since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago.

Remote video URL

In 2020, restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus barred foreigners from performing the haj, limiting it to just 10,000 Saudi residents.

The following year, up to 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi residents were allowed to perform the pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced in April that one million pilgrims would be able to do so this year, of whom 850,000 would be from outside the country.

Though Singapore was initially allocated 407 places, the number was later expanded to 900 - matching the Republic's quota prior to the pandemic.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.