Saudi Arabia urges Muslims to Put Hajj Plans on Hold

A sign displays preventive measures against the coronavirus on display in Makkah. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia urges Muslims to wait and put Hajj plans on hold. This is until there is more clarity about the coronavirus pandemic before planning to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage; the Minister for Hajj and Umrah said on state TV on Tuesday.

Dr. Mohammad Benten said the Kingdom is ready to serve pilgrims in any case but that priority is keeping them safe.

Muslims must wait before making any Hajj plans until there is more clarity on coronavirus, he added.

Some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world usually flock to the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madinah for the week-long ritual.

The largest annual gathering of Muslims is scheduled to begin in late July, but the coronavirus outbreak has raised questions about whether it can or should go ahead given the risk of spreading the disease further in large gatherings.

Saudi Arabia has already suspended the smaller, year-round umrah pilgrimage until further notice, halted all international passenger flights indefinitely and last week blocked entry and exit to several cities, including Mecca and Medina.

The kingdom reported 10 deaths among 1,563 cases of coronavirus; which has infected some 800,000 people globally and killed more than 38,000.

Cancelling the Hajj would be unprecedented in modern time; however, curbing attendance from high-risk areas has happened before, including in recent years during the Ebola outbreak.