Saudi Arabia this year will limit the annual Hajj pilgrimage to people living inside the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in Saudi Arabia’s modern history, Muslims outside the kingdom are barred from performing the Haj.
In an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus, the country’s hajj ministry said the ritual will be open to various nationalities already in Saudi Arabia, but it did not specify a number.
“It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers; with different nationalities in the kingdom,’ the official Saudi Press Agency said on Monday.
Haj, which last year drew 2.5 million pilgrims, is scheduled for the end of July 2020.
The hajj, a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, could be a major source of contagion as it packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites. The decision comes as Saudi Arabia grapples to contain a major spike in infections, which have now risen to more than 161,000 cases- the highest in the Gulf- and over 1,300 deaths.