Saudi Arabia bars international pilgrims for Hajj

Saudi Arabia has banned international visitors from making the Islamic pilgrimage, or Hajj, this year in a bid to control coronavirus.

Only a very limited number of people currently living in the kingdom may take part, an announcement on state media said on Monday.

An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering, the BBC reported.

There had been fears the Hajj might be cancelled altogether.

In normal times the pilgrimage is one of the most significant moments in the Muslim religious calendar. But only citizens from countries around the world who are already resident in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to attend this year.

The authorities say this is the only way they will be able to make plans for social distancing that will keep people safe.

Saudi Arabia has recorded 161,005 cases of infection and 1,307 deaths.

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