Muslims asked not to make any Hajj plans this year: Saudi Arabia amid coronavirus outbreak
Mecca : A senior Saudi official has requested around 1 million Muslims, intending to make a plan for the Hajj, to delay or avoid their journey as the pilgrimage may get cancelled due to prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
In February this year, the Kingdom took the extraordinary decision to close off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to foreigners over the virus. The step was not taken even in the 1918 flu epidemic when tens of millions were killed worldwide.
The Kingdom has tightened the restrictions as it registered 1500 positive cases of coronavirus. So far 10 people have been reported dead from the new virus.
West Asia has over 75,000 confirmed cases of the virus, most of those in Iran, and over 3,400 deaths. Iran's health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said Wednesday that the virus had killed another 138 people, pushing the country's death toll to 3,036 amid 47,593 confirmed cases.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is prepared to secure the safety of all Muslims and nationals," Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Banten told state television. "That's why we have requested from all Muslims around the world to hold onto signing any agreements (with tour operators) until we have a clear vision."
Amid coronavirus outbreak, the Kingdom has barred the entry and exit of people in three major cities, including Mecca and Madina; a nighttime curfew has also been imposed in the country. Like other countries, all commercial flights have been suspended for now.