Saudi Arabia estimates Hajj pilgrims limited to ‘thousands’ due to COVID-19

Riyadh, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- Saudi Arabia’s government on Tuesday estimated that “thousands” of people will be allowed to perform Hajj in 2020, compared to nearly 2.5 million last year after the kingdom announced that only residents can take part due to the coronavirus.

“We do not expect tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands,” minister of pilgrimage Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten said during a press conference.

During the presser, the minister revealed strict measures, including social distancing and systems to avoid the typical gatherings will be taken under these “exceptional circumstances”.

The ministry announced on Monday that only a “very limited number” of people of different nationalities who are currently in the kingdom will be allowed to perform Hajj to make “the ritual safe.”

During the same press conference, health minister Tawfiq al Rabea revealed that people older than 65 years old will not be allowed to take part in the Hajj.

All the participants and workers will undergo medical tests and daily follow ups and will be quarantined after the rituals, he added.

There will be medical teams with the pilgrims in each stop during the rituals and hospitals will be prepared across the route, al Rabea added.

The annual pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim must perform at least once if his or her physical and economic state allow.

In March, Saudi Arabia suspended the minor pilgrimage, known as Umrah, which can be performed across the year.

Last year 19 million Muslims performed Umrah, according to official figures.

Nearly 2.5 million Muslims took part in Hajj last year, including 600,000 Saudis.

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