Saudi Arabia has banned entry for the Hajj pilgrimage this year to international pilgrims, implementing the long-expected decision in order to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
The annual pilgrimage, which draws an estimated two million Muslims from around the world to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, will now only be attended by those currently living in the kingdom, according to Saudi state media.
The cancellation of the Hajj this year for international pilgrims has long been predicted due to fears that the coronavirus – which has spread to more than 180 countries across the world with fatal consequences – would cause a higher infection rate and increase the number of deaths as a result.
With the current infection cases in the kingdom numbering over 161,000 and the death rate being over 1,300, Saudi enforced strict measures earlier this year in order to curb the virus, including the closure of public institutions, schools and even mosques and banned congregational prayers.
The lesser pilgrimage, Umrah, was also banned and the sanctuaries within the two holy cities were restricted to officials, workers and cleaners.
The nationwide lockdown which was imposed for a number of months was lifted over the weekend, however, hailing a return to normal life for the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia.