Dar es Salaam — The National Muslim Council of Tanzania (Bakwata) has urged the faithful to remain calm after Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend hajj this year.
"The Covid-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come for hajj. it is indeed one of the main conditions ," Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on Monday, citing a circular signed by the health minister.
However, the Bakwata secretary general, Mr Nuhu Mruma, said they had not received any official notification, but were making a follow-up on the matter, urging Tanzanians wishing to attend the annual event to be patient.
"We are still waiting for official communication from Saudi Arabia. Under normal circumstances, preparations for hajj are done between now and July and we will wait for the notification and other guidelines," said Mr Mruma.
He said they had started communicating with the embassy of Tanzania in Saudi Arabia to get more details and other directives towards hajj for this year.
Saudi Arabia's directive puts Tanzanian hajj aspirants in unclear fate considering that the East African country has not yet allowed any of the Covid-19 vaccinations.
President John Magufuli recently warned the Ministry of Health against rushing for the Covid-19 vaccinations which he said were dangerous.
"You should stand firm. Vaccinations are dangerous," said Dr Magufuli during the launch of a public forest in Chato in January.
"If the White man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for HIV/Aids by now. He would have found a vaccination of tuberculosis by now, he would have found a vaccination for malaria by now, he would have found a vaccination for cancer by now," he said.
Saudi Arabia takes pride in its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and its smooth organisation of the annual hajj.
In 2020, the kingdom dramatically reduced the number of pilgrims allowed to attend hajj to about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents of the kingdom with a view to preventing the spread of the deadly virus. Thousands of Muslims from abroad could not attend the rite for the first time in modern times.
Hajj - a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it - is a major source of income for the Saudi government.