Saudi Arabia, on Monday, announced that this year the Hajj pilgrimage will be ‘limited’ and pilgrims from outside the country will not be allowed to perform Hajj this year.
According to Saudi officials the decision has been made in wake of the continuous increase in COVID-19 cases in the country and hence the country will not host pilgrims from around the world as the influx of foreigners might result in further virus spread.
According to Saudi authorities, only Saudi citizens and foreign expatriates currently residing in the country will be allowed to perform Hajj, and that too with additional health checks, screening and preventive measures and guidelines.
“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 to protect human beings from the risks associated with this pandemic and in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives of human beings,” read the statement issued by the Saudi government.
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Noor-ul-Haq Qadri – Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, took to social media to announce the development that this year Pakistani pilgrims will not be allowed to visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrimage.
“This year only Saudi citizens and Iqama holders will be able to perform Hajj. Due to coronavirus threat Saudi government has excused themselves from hosting foreign pilgrims,” he tweeted.
Furthermore, the federal minister stated that his ministry will formulate and establish a mechanism for the refunding of Hajj fees already paid by Pakistani pilgrims who had earlier applied for Hajj 2020.
The development comes as Saudi Arabia has reported highest number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East region with more than 161,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,307 deaths so far.