Middle East Desk
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will allow around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform Haj this year, a minister said on Tuesday, after it announced the ritual would be scaled back due to coronavirus. “The number of pilgrims will be around 1,000, maybe less, maybe a little more,” Haj Minister Mohammad Benten told reporters.
“The number won’t be in tens or hundreds of thousands” this year, he added.
The pilgrimage, scheduled for the end of July, will be limited to those below 65 years of age and with no chronic illnesses, Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said. The pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Makkah and will be required to quarantine at home after the ritual, Rabiah added.
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday it would hold a “very limited” Haj this year, as it moves to curb the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Gulf. It said the ritual will be open to people of various nationalities already in the kingdom.
The decision marks the first time in Saudi Arabia’s modern history that Muslims outside the kingdom have been barred from performing Haj, which last year drew 2.5 million pilgrims. Benten did not specify how the pilgrims will be selected.