Haj pilgrims who fall severely ill with Covid-19 to be referred to hospitals in Saudi Arabia

Muslim pilgrims arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on June 5, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Those who fall severely ill with Covid-19 while on the haj pilgrimage will be referred to hospitals in Saudi Arabia, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) on Friday (June 17).

The Singapore Pilgrims Affairs' Office will be guided by the regulations set by the Saudi Ministry of Health for the annual pilgrimage this year, Muis said, responding to media queries.

"Singaporean haj pilgrims, however, are advised to exercise precautionary measures to safeguard their health at all times while in the Holy Land," it added.

Those with relatives who fall ill while performing the haj can contact the travel agencies or the Muis haj unit hotline to get in touch with them.

This comes as 407 pilgrims from Singapore will travel to Saudi Arabia for the haj in the coming weeks - marking the first time Muslims here will be able to go for the annual pilgrimage since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago.

This is less than half of the official quota of 900 allowed in 2019.

Muis said last month that this year's quota would be allocated to those who were supposed to perform haj in 2020 and now meet the conditions and requirements for this year.

Covid-19 restrictions meant only 60,000 domestic pilgrims were allowed to perform the haj last year, compared with about 2.5 million from around the world in 2019.

The Saudi authorities announced in April that up to one million pilgrims would be able to perform the haj this year, with each country being allowed about 45 per cent of their previous official pre-pandemic quota.

This year, pilgrims must be below 65 years old, vaccinated against Covid-19 with a Saudi-approved vaccine, and must submit a negative polymerase chain reaction test within 72 hours of departure to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia recorded 963 new cases and one death on Thursday (June 16).

Meanwhile, travel agencies here have been providing advice to pilgrims.

Mr Ayoob Angullia, the managing director of Shahidah Travel and Tours, which is taking 87 pilgrims this year, said they have been advised to reduce close contact with others while on pilgrimage.

They have also been advised to take care of their health and well-being, he added, noting the temperatures in Saudi Arabia, reached about 42 deg C in Mecca on Friday.

The haj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so are expected to perform the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

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