Saudi Arabia could limit haj pilgrims in the midst of COVID-19

With number of positive COVID-19 cases witnessing a surge, Saudi Arabia has decided to drastically limit numbers at the annual haj pilgrimage that is to start in late July, so as to prevent a further outbreak of the coronavirus.

In the month of March, as a preventive measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Saudi Arabia asked Muslims to put haj plans on hold and suspended umrah until further notice.

Sources familiar with the matter said authorities are now considering to allow “only symbolic numbers” this year with several restrictions in hand including a ban on older pilgrims and additional health checks. The numbers could possibly be up to 20% of each country’s regular quota of pilgrims.

According to statistics, about 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long haj every year. The haj is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

Per the data available, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia earns about $12 billion a year from the haj pilgrimage and the year-round umrah pilgrimage.

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