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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced Saturday it will allow 60,000 residents vaccinated against Covid to perform this year's Haj, but Muslims from abroad will be barred for a second straight year.

The Haj -- a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lives -- typically packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites and could be a major source of contagion amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This year it would be "open for nationals and residents of the kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims", the Haj ministry said, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The pilgrimage, scheduled to be held in July, would be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, it said.

Only up to 10,000 Muslims took part in the Haj in July last year, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated in the five-day annual pilgrimage in 2019 before the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia said those wishing to perform the Haj would have to apply online, without specifying how many foreign residents would be among the 60,000 pilgrims.

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