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Coronavirus
LOW
Source: covid.gov.pk
Pakistan Deaths
28,793
924hr
Pakistan Cases
1,287,703
31024hr
Sindh
477,119
Punjab
443,610
Balochistan
33,514
Islamabad
107,989
KPK
180,471

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is considering barring overseas pilgrims from the annual Hajj for the second year running as Covid-19 cases rise globally and worries grow about the emergence of new variants, two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Such a move would restrict the pilgrimage to Makkah, a once in a lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, to Saudi nationals and residents of the kingdom who were vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 at least months prior to attending.

While discussions about a possible ban have taken place, there has been no final decision on whether to pursue it, they said.

The ban, which is still in place to date, includes people arriving from the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the United States, Britain, South Africa, France, Egypt, Lebanon, India and Pakistan.-

Before the pandemic enforced social distancing globally, some 2.5 million pilgrims used to visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madina for the week-long Hajj, and the lesser, year-round Umrah pilgrimage, which altogether earned the kingdom about $12 billion a year, according to official data.

As part of economic reform plans pursued by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom was hoping to raise the number of Umrah and Hajj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020, and aimed to double the Umrah number again to 30 million by 2030. It aims to earn 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) of revenues from the Hajj alone by 2030.

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