Saudi Arabia Announces Final Decision on Hajj 2020, Pakistan Calls Emergency Meeting to Discuss the Next Step in this Regard

Saudi government on Monday announced its much-awaited decision on Hajj 2020, announcing to hold the annual pilgrimage in a limited manner amid COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry took to Twitter to convey the official decision on Hajj 2020.

The statement from Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry while sharing global COVID-19 figures said that death related to it has reached almost half a million and over 7 million cases have been confirmed globally.

Announcing its decision to only allow a limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities living in Saudi Arabia, the ministry said that it was meant to ensure that Hajj 2020 is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventive measures and necessary social distancing protocols to protect human beings from the risks associated with the pandemic.

“The government of the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques is honored to serve millions of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims annually and it confirms that this decision stems from the top priority it accords maintaining the safety of pilgrims on its land until they depart to their home countries,” read the statement which concluded with a prayer that Allah Almighty protect all countries from the pandemic.

Pakistan Latest Situation on Hajj Plan 2020

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony’s spokesperson, Imran Siddiqui, issued a statement, saying Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Hajj and Umrah Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri to inform him about the decision.

“An emergency meeting has been called to review the latest development during which the mechanism for the return of payments to those who had registered themselves for the government’s Hajj scheme would be discussed,” he said.

Pakistani envoy, diplomatic officials and the Pakistan Hajj Directorate in the kingdom would represent the country this year, he added.

According to a report, a total 179,210 Pakistanis had registered to perform Hajj this year, including 107,526 under the government scheme and 71,684 under the private scheme.

“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols to protect human beings from the risks associated with this pandemic and in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives of human beings,” the ministry that oversees pilgrimages said in a statement.

The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia has exceeded 160,000, with 1,307 deaths, following a rise in new infections over the past two weeks.

Some 2.5 million pilgrims typically visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Medina for the week-long Hajj. Official data show Saudi Arabia earns around $12 billion a year from the Hajj and the lesser, year-round pilgrimage known as umrah.

The Kingdom halted international passenger flights in March and asked Muslims in March to put Hajj plans on hold until further notice. International arrivals for umrah pilgrimages have also been suspended until further notice.

Earlier this month, Malaysia and Indonesia both barred their citizens from travelling to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage, citing fears of the coronavirus.

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