As Saudi Arabia has announced its reopening of Hajj, it is also making clear that only a limited number of people will be able to.
“It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers… with different nationalities in the kingdom,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing the Hajj ministry.
Saudi Arabia will allow around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform Hajj this year, a minister said on Tuesday, after it announced the ritual would be scaled back due to coronavirus.
Saudi Arabia struggles to contain the virus amid a new spike in daily cases and deaths. The kingdom currently has the highest number of cases in the Gulf (161,000 cases) with more than 1300 deaths. As Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage for muslims who are able to do so, there has been a lot of pressure to reopen Hajj. This puts the kingdom in a serious dilemma. The pilgrimage is a major potential source of contagion as it packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites.
Such a severely limited Hajj would also represent a major loss of revenue for the kingdom, which is already suffering from the contagion of the virus and a plunge in oil prices.