by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK/ pic by AFP
HAJ pilgrims or those with plans to perform haj and umrah are advised to suspend their commitments or obligations this year, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Pilgrims Affairs said its Ministry of Haj and Umrah is assiduous in performing haj rituals safely and spiritually, and in order to ensure that no harm would occur as a result of contracting with pilgrims for the haj this year.
“We kindly request you to suspend any new commitments or obligations related to the haj of this year 1441AH until the path of the pandemic becomes clear,” it said in a statement yesterday.
The ministry made the decision to bar any foreign haj pilgrims following the development of the Covid-19 spread, recommendations from health authorities on applying highest precautionary measures to prevent its spread, as well as the application of safety standards to preserve the health of the people heading to Al-Masjid Al-Haram and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi.
The ministry also added that the kingdom’s government is following the virus’ spread closely and its repercussions on a continuous basis, while reviewing precautionary measures actively.
“Any further developments will be notified,” it said.
This year, about 31,600 Malaysian pilgrims are expected to perform the haj, an increase from 30,200 last year.
Earlier last month, the surroundings of the Kaabah, which is often crowded by pilgrims circumambulating the black building, was briefly emptied for disinfection.
It was also reported that the country has halted all international passenger flights indefinitely, besides blocking entry and exit to several cities including Mecca and Medina.
As the pilgrimage is mostly what the country is known for, it is considered as its big business, while also being the main attraction for the country’s economic reform agenda to expand its visitorship.
The country had also previously curbed arrivals during the Ebola outbreak.
Currently, the kingdom has reported over 1,500 positive Covid-19 cases and 10 deaths, whereby globally, over 825,000 people have been infected with over 40,000 casualties recorded.
According to data collected by the John Hopkins University, the fatalities in the US has surpassed China’s, with over 3,400 fatalities recorded, now having the third-highest death toll after Italy and Spain, while having the highest number of cases at over 175,000.