The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that it will hold a “very limited” hajj this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, in line with “the teachings of Islam” to preserve the health of all of mankind.
Under normal circumstances, Muslims from all over the world would make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The religious event regularly attracts millions of pilgrims each year.
There were fears that the pilgrimage would be cancelled altogether. However, this year, only those resident in Saudi Arabia already will be allowed to visit Mecca and medina for the annual gathering, which begins in late July.
“It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers, with different nationalities inside the Kingdom.’ The official Saudi Press Agency said. The Ministries decision has come “in light of the continuation of the pandemic and the risk of corona virus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.”
“This decision is taken to ensure hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols.” The statement continued.
Holding the annual pilgrimage on a full scale, which draws approximately 2.5 million pilgrims, was highly unlikely after the kingdom took a decision to limit the capacity of the event, due to the spread of the virus. Earlier this month Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, took an early decision to withdraw from the pilgrimage. Indonesia has since been followed by Malaysia, Senegal, Singapore, Egypt and South Africa, all following suit with similar announcements.
The Council of Senior Scholars said on Monday that it supported the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims in order to ensure their health and safety.
Those attending from within the country will be kept safe by practising social distancing.