Around 45,000 fully vaccinated people from across the world likely to be allowed to perform Hajj, Bangladesh yet to be informed of their quota
Bangladeshis who wish to participate in Hajj are set for yet another frustrating year as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is all but certain to hold this year’s pilgrimage on a very limited scale due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The Saudi Arabian Health Ministry recently recommended that the kingdom’s Hajj and Umrah affairs Ministry limit this year’s pilgrimage to 60,000 pilgrims, officials concerned told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.
Among the 60,000, around 15,000 will be from within Saudi Arabia while the remaining 45,000 will be allowed from across the globe, they said, adding that everyone would have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and produce coronavirus negative certificates.
The government does not yet know how many Bangladeshis will be allowed to fly to Saudia Arabia to perform the yearly pilgrimage that will take place in second half of July, said the officials.
People will have to be aged between 18 and 60 to be able to perform Hajj, they added.
Last year, Saudi Arabia held a symbolic Hajj with 10,000 people from within the country owing to the pandemic. In 2019, nearly 2.5 million people performed Hajj.
When contacted, State Minister for Religious Affairs Faridul Haque Khan told this correspondent: “We are waiting for the decision of the king of Saudi Arabia. We will take measures in accordance with that.”
Ministry of Religious Affairs Additional Secretary (Hajj) A Hamid Zamadder said: “We have come to know that the Saudi health ministry recommended that 45,000 fully vaccinated people from across the globe and 15,000 from within the kingdom will be permitted to perform Hajj this year.
“We are still waiting to know from the government of Saudi Arabia officially. Saudi Arabia is expected to make a final decision in this regard later in the week.
“We don’t know yet what the quota for Bangladeshis will be, but diplomatic efforts are underway to ensure we will be able to send as many people as possible,” he added.
The additional secretary also said the government would sit to determine who would be allowed to perform Hajj once they are officially notified.
“There are 61,000 plus people registered to perform this year’s Hajj. We are going to pick from them, as there is not enough time to do something else,” he said.
Responding to a query in this regard, Zamadder said: “There are some tricky issues in the selection of people. For instance, if the age of a person is 61 while his wife is 54, the man cannot go but the woman can. She cannot go on her own. Then there are families with members of different ages.”
About the vaccination of potential pilgrims, he said that it would not be a problem.
Quoting people who deposited the money to perform this year’s Hajj, Shahdat Hossain Taslim, president of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), said prospective pilgrims were concerned.
Eyaqub Sharafati, senior vice-president of HAAB, said: “Although still limited, this year’s Hajj is gong going to be much better than the last year.
“Given the additional health protocols this year, the cost of performing Hajj may be higher,” he said.
About the possibility of increased cost, the additional secretary (Hajj) of the Ministry of Religious Affairs said: “It cannot be said now.”