Saudi Arabia on Monday, 20 July, announced that only around 1,000 pilgrims of various nationalities already in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Hajj this year, ANI reported. The pilgrimage will begin on 29 July, reported AFP.
Pilgrims of 160 nationalities, 70 of whom are foreign residents in the Kingdom, would take part in this year's pilgrimage.
“The number of pilgrims will be around 1,000, maybe less, maybe a little more,” Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten told reporters in Riyadh, reported ANI.
Pilgrims above 65 years of age will not be allowed this year. All pilgrims will also be tested for the coronavirus and will have to quarantine after arriving in Mecca.
Zayed Al Tuwailan, commander of Haj Security Forces, told the media on Sunday that the forces are ready to ensure the safety of pilgrims, Xinhua quoted the Saudi Press Agency as saying in its report.
"It is an extraordinary season with extraordinary measures to tackle the coronavirus for the safety of pilgrims," Al Tuwailan said.
The commander warned of jail terms and fines against violators, noting non-Saudis would face deportation.
This is not the first time Saudi Arabia has restricted participation to the pilgrimage. Between 2014 and 2016, Muslims from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and several other African countries were excluded from the Hajj due to Ebola.
The Hajj represents an important source of income, typically generating between $5.3 billion and $6.9 billion for the local economy, according to Mecca's chamber of commerce.
In 2019, nearly 2.5 million Muslims performed the Hajj, including more than 6,00,000 Saudis, according to official figures.
The annual pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim must perform at least once if their physical and economic state allow.
(With inputs from AFP, ANI and IANS.)
. Read more on World by The Quint.With Around 1,000 Pilgrims, Scaled-Down Hajj to Start From 29 JulyCOVID-19: India’s Tally Rises to 11,55,191; Death Toll at 28,084 . Read more on World by The Quint.