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ROME: Italian Muslims who cannot perform their pilgrimage to Makkah this year due to COVID-19 restrictions should donate the money they would have spent on the trip to families in need, said the imam of the city of Florence.

“While we wait for the vaccination plan to work at full swing in our country, I invite anyone who can to donate the money they would have spent for the pilgrimage to families who find themselves in a difficult situation. For their holy pilgrimage, they should wait for next year,” said Izzedin Elzir.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Monday said only pilgrims and worshippers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, or who have recovered from the disease, will be allowed into the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Permits will be granted to those who have received two vaccination jabs, those who have received a first dose at least 14 days before their visit to Madinah and Makkah, and those who have had the virus and recovered.

Elzir, former president of the Council of Islamic Communities in Italy, described the Saudi measures as “very right.”

He said: “The Prophet Muhammad taught us that one should neither enter nor exit a pandemic zone. Worshipping the Lord is important to us, as it is to respect one’s own life and that of others.”

Elzir added: “Usually between 1,000 and 1,500 Muslim faithful depart from Italy every year (for their pilgrimage). I believe that this year only 500 will manage to go.”

The imam of the Sicilian city of Catania also agreed with the Saudi measures. “It is absolutely right to ask that whoever takes part in Umrah is immunized. Health protection comes first,” said Abdelhafid Kheit.

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