Saudi Arabia considers canceling hajj over coronavirus pandemic

Saudi Arabia considers canceling hajj over coronavirus pandemic

Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering canceling the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A cancellation would mark the first time in modern Muslim history a trip to the holiest of Islamic cities during the five- to six-day pilgrimage held at the end of July.

Roughly two million Muslims make the trip each year.

“The issue has been carefully studied and different scenarios are being considered. An official decision will be made within one week, ”said a senior Saudi official told the Financial Times.

Health concerns have led to the cancellation or delay of major events worldwide, including the Olympic Games in Tokyo and, possibly, the Super Bowl.

The Saudi government acted fast to institute a lockdown after the first case in the country was confirmed on March 2, but cases have spiked recently with easing stay-at-home orders.

There have been more than 3,000 daily cases reported over the last six days while at least 893 have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The Financial Times reports that officials are considering allowing a small number of locals to perform hajj under strict public health measures.

“All options are on the table but the priority is for the health and safety of pilgrims,” ​​the official told the paper.