Saudi Arabia this year will limit the annual Hajj pilgrimage to people living inside the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shutting the doors to pilgrims from abroad.

Only a limited number of people from all nationalities living in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to perform the annual Hajj as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread worldwide, and crowded places and international transportation are even riskier in recent days, the Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry said in a written statement.

The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site Kaaba in the city of Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to perform it at least once in their life if they have the means to do so.

The kingdom’s coronavirus tally stands at 161,005 cases, including 1,307 deaths and 105,175 recoveries.

Since first appearing in China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 188 countries and regions.

The US, Brazil, and Russia are currently the countries hardest hit in the world.

The pandemic has killed nearly 470,000 people worldwide, with over 9 million confirmed cases and over 4.46 million recoveries, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz in Ankara

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