Saudi Arabia made the decision to restrict this year’s hajj, or pilgrimage to the sacred Islamic cities of Mecca and Medina, for pilgrims arriving from abroad due to coronavirus-related epidemiological precautions, Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Monday.
“Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the threat it represents for large public gatherings, the hajj of the Islamic calendar year of 1441 [2020 according to the Christian calendar] will be limited to pilgrims of different nationalities who are already in the country,” the ministry said in a statement, Sputnik reported.
In April, it asked Muslim travelers all over the world to refrain from visiting the kingdom for Hajj. Prior to that, the main holy sites were closed for visitors, as procedures for complete disinfection were carried out to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In March, the Saudi religious authorities banned prayers in mosques, including weekly Friday prayer, following restrictions issued by the country’s government.
As of June 22, Saudi Araba has confirmed a total of 157,612 coronavirus cases, including at least 1,267 fatalities, the World Health Organization dashboard shows.