The decision was taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic and to preserve “global public health,” the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.
The statement said: “A very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.”
“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 to protect human beings from the risks associated with this pandemic and in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives of human beings,” the statement went on further.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) tweeted the decision as well.
“The Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is honoured to serve millions of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims annually and it confirms that this decision stems from the top priority it accords maintaining the safety of pilgrims on its land until they depart to their home countries,” the statement added.
As of this date, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 160,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,307 deaths according to data compiled on worldometers.
Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrimage, which lasts approximately 5 to 6 days depending on the lunar Islamic calendar, is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey and can support their family during their absence.
Hajj has never been cancelled ever since the foundation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. Hajj was not cancelled even during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1917-18.
In the meantime, many Asian countries had decided to cancel their delegations to this year’s Hajj before the Saudi decision to limit pilgrim numbers. According to Arab News, citing Saudi authorities, Hajj pilgrim numbers could be limited to less or more than 1,000 to protect public health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
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