Riyadh has expanded the Islamic pilgrimage number in the country to one million compared to last year's 60,000 domestic participants.
Saudi Arabia will let up to 1 million people join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding the key event to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight Covid restrictions, state media has said.
The hajj ministry "has authorised one million pilgrims, both foreign and domestic, to perform the hajj this year," it said in a statement.
Pilgrims to Mecca this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement carried by the SPA news agency.
Those coming from outside Saudi Arabia will be required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel, it said on late Friday.
Fighting the desease
Last year, the kingdom limited the annual Haj, one of Islam's main pillars, to 60,000 domestic participants, compared to the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.
Visits to the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long haj, and the lesser, year-round umrah pilgrimage, previously earned the kingdom about $12 billion a year, according to official data.
The government wants to ensure pilgrims' safety "while ensuring that the maximum number of Muslims worldwide can perform the hajj", Saturday's statement said.
The hajj consists of a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in Islam's holiest city, Mecca, and surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia.
Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, as the custodianship of Islam's holiest sites is the most powerful source of their political legitimacy.
Before the pandemic, Muslim pilgrimages were key revenue earners for the k ingdom, bringing in some $12 billion annually.
The restrictions in 2020 and 2021 stoked resentment among Muslims abroad who were barred.
The kingdom of approximately 34 million people has so far recorded more than 751,000 coronavirus cases, including 9,055 deaths, according to health ministry data.