Saudi Bars Hajj Pilgrims From Abroad to Contain COVID-19 Spread

Saudi Bars Hajj Pilgrims From Abroad to Contain COVID-19 Spread

Saudi Arabia has banned international visitors from making the Islamic pilgrimage, or Hajj, this year in a bid to control the spread of the coronavirus. The country will allow only people already living in the kingdom to take part in the pilgrimage that begins in July.

The move comes to control the spread of COVID-19 as global numbers keep rising at a record high rate.

An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering, the BBC reported.

There had been fears the Hajj might be cancelled altogether.

The pilgrimage is one of the most significant moments in the Muslim religious calendar. But only citizens from countries around the world who are already residing in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to attend this year, reported news agency IANS.

Earlier this month, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, emerged as one of the first countries to withdraw from the pilgrimage according to Al Jazeera. Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore followed suit with similar announcements.

Saudi Arabia so far has has recorded 1,61,005 cases of infection and 1,307 deaths.