Saudi Arabia has announced to hold the Hajj this year with a “very limited number of pilgrims of various nationalities who already reside in the kingdom” as the country moves to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.
The decision to hold it on a limited scale was made due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which has spread to more than 180 countries, with over seven million infected and almost half a million deaths across the world, Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a release yesterday.
“The decision was taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventive 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 release read.
It is the kingdom’s “top priority to always enable Muslim pilgrims to perform Hajj and Umrah rites safely and securely,” the release also said, adding that the authorities came to the decision “considering the risks of the disease and infections spreading in crowded gatherings where it is difficult to maintain safe social distancing among the individuals gathered”.
The Hajj, scheduled to be held in late July, is fraught with political and economic peril and comes after several Muslim nations pulled out of the ritual, AFP reported.
The decision to limit the event comes as Saudi Arabia struggles to contain a spike in infections, which have now risen to some 161,000 cases and more than 1,300 deaths.