RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will restrict the number of domestic Hajj pilgrims this year to 1,000 to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. The news comes after the country shut down the pilgrimage journey to Muslims abroad for the first time ever.
Mohammed Benten the Hajj minister told reporters on Tuesday in a news briefing that strict safety protocols would be used to pick out eligible pilgrims to perform the Hajj. Citizens of residents aged 65 and older will not be able to attend the pilgrimage.Read More– Wearing a Face Mask Could Prevent Second Wave of Covid19
The Hajj pilgrimage usually has around 2.5 million people visiting the holy place in Makkah and Madinah. The Hajj is a week-long journey for Muslims and is the once-in-a-lifetime duty of every mature and able Muslim.
The Hajj will start by the end of July this year.
According to official reports, Saudi Arabia earns almost $12 billion yearly from the Hajj pilgrimage and the Umrah pilgrimage (year-long pilgrimage).
“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is keen to enable all Muslims of different nationalities to perform Hajj but the global health circumstances this year led us to make this Hajj an exception,” Benten said.
“Everyone knows the risks of this virus and knows that all countries are closed now and until Hajj time, and therefore there will be risks to transfer pilgrims across countries,” he said, adding that pilgrim safety was a top priority for the country.
Al Azhar, Egypt’s top Muslim authority supports the decision of Saudi Arabia and considers it a “wise decision”.
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Currently, Saudi Arabia has more than 161,000 cases of the coronavirus and over 1,300 deaths.