Amid coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia to hold 'very limited' hajj this year

WION Web Team
Saudi Arabia Published: Jun 23, 2020, 09:21 AM(IST)

File Photo: Mecca Madina Hajj pilgrimage Photograph:( Others )

Story highlights

The decision marks the first time in Saudi Arabia's modern history that Muslims outside the kingdom have been barred from performing the hajj, which last year drew 2.5 million pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia has announced it will hold a "very limited" hajj this year, with pilgrims already present in the kingdom allowed to perform the annual ritual.

The development comes as the country moves to contain the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Gulf.

The decision marks the first time in Saudi Arabia's modern history that Muslims outside the kingdom have been barred from performing the hajj, which last year drew 2.5 million pilgrims.

The kingdom's hajj ministry said the ritual will be open to various nationalities already in Saudi Arabia, but it did not specify a number.

"It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers... with different nationalities in the kingdom," the official Saudi Press Agency said on Monday, citing the ministry.

Also read: Saudi Arabia to end virus curfew on June 21, except in Mecca

"This decision is taken to ensure the hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective... and in accordance with the teachings of Islam."

The hajj -- a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime -- could be a major source of contagion, as it packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites.

Also read: COVID 19: On Saudi Arabia's advice, Haj arrangements are on hold

The decision comes as Saudi Arabia grapples to contain a major spike in virus, which have now risen to more than 161,000 cases -- the highest in the Gulf -- and over 1,300 deaths.

But despite the surge, Saudi Arabia on Sunday moved to end a coronavirus curfew across the kingdom and lift restrictions on businesses, including cinemas and other entertainment venues.

(With inputs from AFP) 

Read in App