- Authorities in Saudi Arabia are considering limiting the number of pilgrims visiting Mecca and Medina
- Restrictions will include a ban on older pilgrims and additional health checks for those coming into the country
- Saudi authorities think it may be possible to allow in up to 20% of each country's regular quota of pilgrims
A report by Gulf News indicates that Saudi Arabia could limit numbers at the annual hajj pilgrimage to prevent a further outbreak of coronavirus after cases in the country topped 100,000.
Statistics available shows that some 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long hajj, from across the world including Nigeria.
Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
The hajj and the lesser, year-round umrah pilgrimage earn the kingdom about $12 billion a year.
Sources quoted in the report said authorities are now considering allowing "only symbolic numbers" this year, with restrictions including a ban on older pilgrims and additional health checks.
With strict procedures, Saudi authorities think it may be possible to allow in up to 20% of each country's regular quota of pilgrims, another source told Reuters.
In 2019, around 19 million pilgrims attended umrah while hajj drew 2.6 million.
Meanwhile, Friday prayers in mosques across Saudi Arabia are back after more than two months following the suspension of congregational prayers over COVID-19.
Nearly 100,000 worshippers attended the last Friday prayers in the Prophet Mosque in Medina, according to World Gulf, a state body in charge of the holy site’s affairs.
There were, however, strict health measures during worship. Each worshipper had his own rug and observed designated distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.
In a related development, the federal government on Wednesday, June 3, discharged 292 Nigerian returnees from Saudi Arabia who have been in isolation for about 15 days in an Abuja hotel.
The isolation of the returnees from the Arab nation was a necessary precautionary procedure stipulated by the government.
However, after testing negative for the coronavirus upon expiration of their isolation, they were discharged from the hotel.
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