Not a problem for Pakistanis if Saudi Arabia imposes coronavirus vaccination restriction for Hajj: official

May 19, 2021

Pakistan is currently waiting for an announcement by Saudi Arabia on its Hajj 2021 policy

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KARACHI: A condition to be vaccinated for coronavirus will not be "a matter of concern" for Pakistanis looking to travel for Hajj if Saudi Arabia decides to keep its current travel policy during Hajj, say senior officials.

They reasoned that Pakistan has plenty of doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, with more doses reaching of both AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines by next month.

“The Saudi government has not yet announced its Hajj policy which is expected by 15th Shawal (May 27, 2021). We don’t know yet whether they will allow pilgrims from outside the KSA and if allowed, how many outsiders could perform the pilgrimage," an official said.

Read more: Saudi Arabia's new coronavirus vaccine conditions leave Pakistani travellers in a fix

So currently, Pakistan is waiting for an announcement by Saudi Arabia on its Hajj policy, the Pakistani government official, who requested anonymity and is based in Riyadh, told The News.

The government official said so far the Saudi authorities had only announced their travel policy. According to that, Saudi Arabia is only allowing people entry if vaccinated for coronavirus by either one of the three American or the European vaccine: Pfizer, Moderna, Jhonson and Jhonson and AstraZeneca.

No Hajj-related restrictions have so far been announced, he said.

“If they maintain the travel-related restrictions for Hajis too, it would not be a matter of concern for Pakistanis as we are already vaccinating them with AstraZeneca and we have sufficient stock available," he said.

The official said Pakistan will be receiving hundreds of thousands more AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX next month.

Read more: Pakistan restricts use of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people under 40

Pakistan is also likely to get over a 100,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine through COVAX by the end of June, he said, adding that if required, Pakistani pilgrims will be vaccinated with these two KSA-approved vaccines.

During Ramazan, the Saudi health authorities allowed three types of people into the holy cities, including those who had both doses of the KSA-approved vaccines, or those who had single dose of any one of those vaccines 14 days earlier or those who had recovered from COVID-19 within the last six months.

“We are hopeful that vaccination related issues will not emerge if people from Pakistan are allowed to perform Hajj this year,” the official said.

Read more: Pakistanis over 30 years old can now register for coronavirus vaccine

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, meanwhile, also said Pakistani Hajis are likely to be inoculated by AstraZeneca vaccine if allowed to proceed for Hajj.

There were reports that Saudi Arabia had also allowed entry to those vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine after its approval by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr Sultan said they were trying to get confirmation about it.

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