Saudi Arabia will allow around 1,000 pilgrims living in the kingdom to carry out the hajj this year, a minister said on Tuesday after announcing that the corona virus ritual would slow down the ritual.
"The number of pilgrims will be 1,000, maybe less, maybe a little more," Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten told reporters.
"The number will not be in tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands," he added this year.
The pilgrimage planned for late July will be limited to people under 65 without chronic diseases, said Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah.
The pilgrims are tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and must be quarantined at home after the ritual, Rabiah added.
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it would hold a "very limited" Hajj this year to stem the largest outbreak of corona viruses in the Gulf.
The ritual was said to be open to people of different nationalities who are already in the kingdom.
The decision is the first time in Saudi Arabia's modern history that Muslims outside the kingdom have been excluded from carrying out the Hajj, in which 2.5 million pilgrims participated last year.
Benten did not specify how pilgrims should be selected.
But he said the government would work with various diplomatic missions in the kingdom to select foreign pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia that meet the health criteria.
The Hajj – a must for Muslims with disabilities at least once in their lives – usually packs millions of pilgrims into overcrowded religious sites and could be a major source of infection.
The decision is made when Saudi Arabia struggles with a sharp rise in infections, which have now risen to more than 161,000 cases – the highest in the Gulf – with more than 1,300 deaths.
However, the move to cut back on the five-day event is associated with political and economic dangers and is taking place after several Muslim countries have been pulled out of the ritual that is one of the most important pillars of Islam.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)