Coronavirus: Hajj to go ahead with ‘very limited numbers’, Saudi Arabia announces

Saudi Arabia will hold Hajj this year for very limited numbers of citizens and residents living inside the country, to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision comes in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases around the world, the lack of a vaccine and difficulty maintaining social distance among large numbers of pilgrims coming from overseas.

It comes as the country announced it will end a nationwide curfew and lift restrictions on businesses from Sunday morning after three months of lockdown.

Restrictions will remain, however, for religious pilgrimages, international travel and social gatherings of more than 50 people.

The kingdom introduced stringent measures to curb the spread of coronavirus in March, including 24-hour curfews on most towns and cities.

In May, it announced a three-phase plan to ease restrictions on movement and travel, culminating in the curfew completely ending on 21 June.

The number of coronavirus infections has risen in recent weeks following a relaxation of movement and travel restrictions on 28 May.

The kingdom has recorded 154,223 cases of COVID-19 and a total of 1,230 deaths, the highest in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Some 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj – a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

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