Islamic week-long ritual has been scaled back to a limited number of pilgrims because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia says it will allow only about 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform the Hajj this year, one day after it announced the annual pilgrimage would be scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world flock annually to the cities of Mecca and Medina for the week-long ritual scheduled to begin in late July. This year, no overseas visitors would be allowed.
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday it would hold a “very limited” Hajj this year, as the country is still battling with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj said the decision to curtail the pilgrimage was aimed at preserving global public health because of the risks associated with large gatherings.
This year’s event is expected to start on July 28.
Who will perform Hajj?
As one of the five key pillars in Islam, Hajj is a requirement for all physically and financially able Muslims to perform at least once in their lifetime.
This year, the kingdom’s Hajj ministry said the ritual would be open only to individuals of various nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia.
In a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said the government is still in the process of reviewing the number of overall pilgrims allowed, saying they could be “around 1,000, maybe less, maybe a little more”.
“The number won’t be in tens or hundreds of thousands” this year, he added.
Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said the pilgrims would be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and will be required to quarantine at home after the ritual.
He said no one over the age of 65 or with chronic illnesses would be allowed to perform the Hajj.