İrem UZUN -TDO- According to Al Jazeera news agency, Saudi Arabia has announced it will hold a "very limited" Hajj this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. People that already live in the kingdom are allowed to take part in the pilgrimage beginning in late July. Saudi authorities said the decision is in line with the keenness of Kingdom’s leadership to ensure the public safety amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

Only Saudis and expatriate residents from various nationalities are allowed to perform the Haj rituals this year, as a precautionary measure to avoid crowds and stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The ministry said the decision had been made “in light of continuation of the pandemic and the risks of Coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.” An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, said that in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, his country also supports the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims, based on nationalities as well. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, withdrew from the pilgrimage this month after pressing Riyadh for clarity, with a minister calling it a “very bitter and difficult decision”.  Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore followed suit with similar announcements.  Many other countries with Muslim populations Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon and Bulgaria - have said they are still awaiting Riyadh’s decision.

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