Saudi Arabia to severely limit hajj

An aerial view of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca [File: AFP]

An aerial view of Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca [File: AFP]

Saudi Arabia announced Monday that the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which usually draws around two million people from around the world, will be limited to people already living in the kingdom because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how many people will be permitted.

Saudi Arabia, which cited the lack of a coronavirus vaccine and the risks of gathering in large crowds as the reason behind the decision, has one of the highest infection rates in the Middle East, with more than 160,000 confirmed cases and 1,307 deaths.

Several countries, including Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, had already withdrawn from the pilgrimage earlier this month over concerns about the virus.

All able-bodied Muslims are required to perform the hajj once in their lifetime.

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