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COVID-19: Saudi bars foreign pilgrims for 2020 Hajj, Umrah

Saudi Arabia has barred foreign pilgrims from this year’s hajj.

The country said that only those residing in the country would be allowed to perform hajj for this year.

Hajj is a pilgrimage Muslim faithful are expected to perform at least once in a lifetime.

In a statement issued, on Monday, Saudi ministry of hajj and umrah said the decision was taken to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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Saudi Arabia has confirmed over 161,000 cases of the novel Coronavirus with at least 1,300 deaths.

The ministry said the country is committed to ensuring social distancing during the pilgrimage.

“It has been decided that Hajj for this year (1441 H/ 2020 AD) will be held whereby a very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia would be able to perform it,” the statement read.

“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventive 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.”

Several countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Senegal and Singapore have announced that their citizens would not attend hajj this year.

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Some other countries have advised their citizens to avoid participating in this year’s pilgrimage.

About 2.5 million pilgrims normally travel to the city of Mecca for the annual pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia had earlier suspended the issuance of visa to pilgrims wishing to perform Umrah (lesser hajj) over Coronavirus.

Umrah is a pilgrimage performed by Muslims at any time of the year.