#Headlines

GIA registers 314 as Saudi confirms 60, 000 pilgrims

Jun 16, 2021, 12:02 PM | Article By: Sanna Camara

Gambia International Airlines (GIA) has already registered over 314 pilgrims when Saudi Arabia announced over the weekend it is limiting the 2021 Hajj to only 60,000 of its residents.

This figure is further limited to only those vaccinated against Covid-19 pandemic, restricting Muslims from abroad for the second straight year.

The Gambia’s national carrier had been allocated a quota of 445 pilgrims in the 2021 pilgrimage. Over three hundred had already booked places with the agency already.

That figure did not include private travel agencies that over the years equally participated in airlifting and ground operations on the hajj each year.

“Yes, there were 314 [who booked spots on the package] and our quota was 445 people for the hajj,” a senior official of the agency confirmed yesterday.

Similar to 2020, Saudi Arabia announced that a limited number of pilgrims will be permitted to carry out Hajj this year.

The GIA, however, had already opened up the process of would-be pilgrims paying a D100, 000 deposit each at their Eco Bank account in order to confirm a place on this year’s Hajj.

Officials maintained that this was only meant to secure spots on the 2021 Gambia package.

Now that it is formally announced that it is limited, one idea being considered by the agency is for would-be pilgrims to leave their deposits until next year, when perhaps, Covid-19 pandemic would have eased or phased out.

The chairman for the National Hajj Commission of The Gambia had last month expressed doubt over the pilgrimage rites this year due to the pandemic.

“I do not believe hajj can happen this year because the time left for hajj is too short for preparation. Hajj preparation needs several months and now there is only one month left for pilgrims to commence," Dr Jah told The Point.

The last pilgrimage was in 2019 when Saudi Arabia allocate some 1, 700 spots for The Gambia.

In 2020, the pandemic ensured no Gambian flew from Banjul to the Muslim holy city for the rites.

Hajj 2021 meanwhile is expected to commence on 17 July, and only vaccinated individuals aged 18-65 years, with no chronic illnesses will be allowed.

Only 10,000 Muslims took part in Hajj 2020.

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