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इंडियन आवाज़     02 Dec 2020 11:45:12      انڈین آواز

COVID-19: Saudi Arabia bars international pilgrims for Hajj

WEB DESK / AMN / RIYADH

Following Corona Crisis Saudi Arabia has decided to bar international visitors from Hajj the Islamic pilgrimage, this year.

Hajj will go ahead next month but with a “very limited” number of pilgrims allowed to take part, Saudi Arabia said on Monday.

An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering.

In normal times the pilgrimage is one of the most significant moments in the Muslim religious calendar. But only citizens from countries around the world who are already resident in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to attend this year.

The authorities say this is the only way they will be able to make plans for social distancing that will keep people safe.

Saudi Arabia has recorded 161,005 cases of infection and 1,307 deaths.

The ministry said the decision had been made “in light of continuation of the pandemic and the risks of Coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.”

The decision was taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic and to preserve “global public health,” the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Pilgrims taking part will be from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia.

About 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year but the ongoing scale and spread of COVID-19 worldwide means people will not be able to travel to the Kingdom to take part.

The statement said: “A very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.

“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.”

Last year, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part. The Hajj ministry said this year the risk of transmitting the disease between countries and the increase in infections globally meant the risk was too high.

The ministry said Saudi Arabia’s top priority is to always enable Muslim pilgrims can perform Hajj and Umrah safely and securely.

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