Saudi Arabia declared yesterday that it would hold a “very limited” hajj this year with around 1000 pilgrims residing in the Kingdom, declared a minister on Tuesday. For the first time in Saudi Arabia’s modern history, Muslims outside the kingdom will not be allowed to perform the hajj due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Last year, nearly 2.5 million pilgrims attended the hajj.
The Hajj Minister Mohammed Benten announced it on Tuesday and said, “the number of pilgrims will be around 1,000, maybe less, maybe a little more.” Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said, people above 65 and anyone with chronic illness will not be allowed to attend the pilgrimage that is scheduled to start at the end of July.
Just after arriving in the holy city of Mecca, every pilgrim will be tested for coronavirus and will be quarantined at home after the pilgrimage, declared Rabiah. The move was taken to combat the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Gulf.
However, there is no information regarding the selection process of the pilgrims. Benten said the government is likely to work with various diplomatic missions in the kingdom to select foreign pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia who fit the health criteria.
The annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia is a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime. Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 161,000 coronavirus cases which is the highest in the Gulf with more than 1300 deaths.