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Thu Apr 2, 2020, 02:54 PM

Hajj pilgrimage could be cancelled because of coronavirus [View all]

Source: The Guardian

Hajj pilgrimage could be cancelled because of coronavirus

Saudi authorities pave way for first closure of annual Islamic event in Mecca since 1798

Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent
Wed 1 Apr 2020 12.56 BST

The biggest occasion in the Islamic calendar, the annual hajj pilgrimage, has become the latest global event to be jeopardised by coronavirus, with Saudi authorities suggesting travellers delay plans to visit Mecca in late July.

The comments have been widely interpreted as clearing the ground for a cancellation of this year’s event, a rare occurrence in modern history: the last such closure took place more than 200 years ago.

Mecca and Medina, the two holy cities that are hubs of the pilgrimage, have both been in effect closed to visitors for the past month, a step that was not taken during the 1918 flu pandemic. Saudi officials have sealed the country’s borders to foreigners and imposed widespread restrictions on movement inside the kingdom, partly in the hope of eradicating the disease before the hajj.

However, with the virus swirling around the world, modelling suggesting it could take many more months to be contained and global aviation having almost ground to a halt, there seems no viable scenario in which such a mass movement of pilgrims could be hosted in late July.


“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is prepared to secure the safety of all Muslims and nationals,” the Saudi hajj and umrah minister, Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Banten, told state television on Wednesday. “That’s why we have requested from all Muslims around the world to hold onto signing any agreements until we have a clear vision.”


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/01/hajj-pilgrimage-could-be-cancelled-because-of-coronavirus-islamic

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