Muslim faithfuls from Nigeria and other countries have been barred from observing this year’s Holy Hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as a result of the Covid19 pandemic.
More than two million people perform the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca every year, including many foreign nationals.
Earlier, the Saudi authorities stated that only a limited number of muslims already resident in the country, would be allowed to perform the Hajj, a major pillar in Islam.
The Gulf monarchy has the Arab world’s largest number of coronavirus infections with more than 160,000 cases, including 1,307 deaths
Since late February, the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, has suspended the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) to Mecca due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement on Monday, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the pilgrimage will take place “this year with a very limited number of those who want to perform the Hajj from all nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia only,’’
The decision aims at ensuring preventive measures and social distancing protocols are observed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
It is also “in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives of human beings,’’ the ministry added.
The Hajj which is considered as one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory duty for all Muslims to perform at least once in their lifetime if there are means of doing so.
It usually takes place over five days, from the eighth to the 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
On Sunday, authorities lifted a nationwide curfew that was imposed to contain the spread of the virus, allowing gatherings up to 50 people. It however remains resolute in its decision to suspend all international flights to and from the kingdom.