The Umrah pilgrimage was suspended last March as part of the Kingdom’s preventive measures against coronavirus. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The UAE Haj Affairs Office has confirmed that citizens will not be permitted to participate in Haj this year.

The announcement was made in line with Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow a limited number of pilgrims to perform the Haj rituals this year, which include only Saudis and expatriate residents from various nationalities.

In a statement, the UAE Haj Affairs Office (HAO) said: "The Kingdom's decision stems from the preventive and precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of the pandemic and to keep all humans protected and safe from its risks and in accordance with the teachings of Islam in preserving the lives.”

The UAE lauded the efforts made by Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, in serving the pilgrims to the Holy Land in Mecca and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.

With more than 4,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, the pandemic is surging in Saudi Arabia, and last week it became the 15th country to record 100,000 cases of the disease. Like the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia is trying to balance public health concerns with economic imperatives. But unlike many countries facing higher case counts after reopening their economies, the kingdom is pushing ahead with normalization just as infections hit all-time highs.

The smaller year-round Umrah pilgrimage had already been suspended since March. As of last Saturday, the latest figures bring the total number of confirmed infections in the Kingdom to 154,233.

In the last week, officials have also taken to television stations to urge residents to avoid gatherings and wear masks as people get back to work, in addition to reintroducing a lockdown in the coastal city of Jeddah.