The hajj will go on this year with only a “limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia”.
The Saudi ministry of hajj and umrah said in a statement on June 22 that the decision is based in light of the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of its spread 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 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,” said the ministry.
The decision ends months of concerns for the international Muslim community about the feasibility of the pilgrimage this year amid the pandemic, especially since Saudi authorities suspended the umrah towards the end of February and still maintains its ban on inbound international flights.
Several nations had earlier already decided to defer this year’s hajj for their citizens citing safety and health concerns. The countries include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday lifted a three-month curfew across the country even as cases of COVID-19 continue to persist in the country. The ministry of health on June 22 reported 3,393 new cases, taking the total tally to 161,005, including 1,307 fatalities.
Around 2.5 million pilgrims from abroad and inside Saudi Arabia were expected to perform the hajj this year, that starts around July 28.
Last year, 2,489,406 pilgrims performed the hajj, with 75%, or 1,855,027 coming from abroad, according to data from Saudi’s General Authority for Statistics.
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