Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca will take place but with a ‘very limited’ number of people.
According to the Ministry, with the high risks of COVID-19 spread in crowded places around the globe and the global increase in infections, the Hajj will be restricted to only nationalities who are already residing in the country.
A statement from the Ministry added that “this decision is taken to ensure Hajj is safely performed while committing to all preventive measures to protect Muslims and adhere strictly to the teachings of Islam in preserving our health and safety.”
Citing the Saudi Ministry of Health on the expected growth of COVID-19 risks, coupled with the unavailability of a cure for the virus, the Ministry said it would be impossible to observe social distancing and safety protocols when Hajj is held with the usual number of pilgrims.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose top priority is to always provide care to enable Muslims to perform Hajj or Umrah rites safely and securely, has taken severe precautionary measures to protect pilgrims since the beginning of COVID-19,” part of the statement read.
Currently, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in the Middle East, with more than 161,000 total confirmed cases and 1,307 deaths.
About the Hajj pilgrimage
The Hajj, a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, represents a major potential source of contagion as it packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites.
In 2019, over two million Muslims performed Hajj. Out of this number, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part.
Performing the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is one of the biggest religious gatherings in the world. It occurs two months and 10 days after Ramadan ends, during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah.
Earlier this month, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, emerged as one of the first countries to withdraw from the pilgrimage after pressing Riyadh for clarity, with a minister calling it a “very bitter and difficult decision”.
Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore followed suit with similar announcements.
The Hajj is scheduled this year to start at the end of July.
Ghana’s Hajj Board to refund monies to pilgrims
The National Hajj Board has earlier assured it is willing to refund monies collected from potential pilgrims due to Saudi Arabia’s refusal to accept attendants from outside the country due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“There are some who have paid; and they paid because we encouraged them to pay in that even if the pilgrimage is cancelled, the monies will be refunded to them. We could also have a situation where others would like to keep their monies with the Hajj Board so that if things go on well, we will perform the Hajj next year”, Director of Communication for the Hajj board, Alhaji Abubakar Sidik Ahmed noted.
The Pilgrimage Affairs Office of Ghana (PAOG), in collaboration with Hajj Agents Association, pegged the 2020 Hajj pilgrimage fare at GH¢19,500, an equivalent of $3,500 dollars, after the Office resolved that the fare will remain unchanged from 2019.
Story by: Christian Yalley | universnewsroom.com