Muslim pilgrims attend noon prayers outside the Namirah mosque on Arafat Mountain during the 2018 hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 20, 2018. The annual pilgrimage represents one of the five pillars of Islam and is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Saudi Arabia to hold 'very limited' hajj due to virus

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia said Monday (June 22) that this year’s hajj will not be canceled but that due to the coronavirus only “very limited numbers” of people will be allowed to perform the major Muslim pilgrimage.

The kingdom said that only people of various nationalities already residing in the country would be allowed to perform the hajj.

The government did not specify how many people would be permitted to take part.

The annual pilgrimage, which is set to begin this year at the end of July, traditionally draws around 2 million Muslims from around the world for five intense days of worship and rituals in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia has never canceled the hajj in the nearly 90 years since the nation’s establishment.

It halted the minor umrah pilgrimage, which can be performed year-round, in February, as the coronavirus began spreading across the region.