Saudi Arabia approves entry of tourists jabbed with Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine
Pilgrims holding umbrellas to protect themselves from the heat arrive at the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Meccca, at the start of the Hajj season, on Jul 17, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Fayez Nureldine)
MOSCOW: Saudi Arabia has granted approval for people vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik jab to enter the country in a move that will enable Muslims to take part in religious pilgrimages, the vaccine’s developers said Sunday (Dec 5).
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has granted approval for entry of individuals vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine starting from January 1, 2022,” the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which financed the development of Sputnik V, said in a statement.
The decision, said the fund, “will enable Muslims from all over the world vaccinated with Sputnik V to participate in the Hajj and the Umrah pilgrimages to Islam’s holiest sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina.
“Foreign tourists vaccinated with Sputnik will still be required to quarantine for 48 hours and take a PCR test.
Saudi Arabia has joined more than 100 countries accepting visitors vaccinated with Sputnik, the RDIF said, adding that only 15 countries including the United States currently require travellers to be jabbed with vaccines other than Sputnik.
The hajj – 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 during the pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has for a second year forced Saudi authorities to dramatically downsize the hajj, and just 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents of the kingdom have taken part this year.