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Dubai: Saudi Arabia announces that Haj will be held this year but with a very limited number of pilgrims and in compliance with precautionary measures including a ban on older pilgrims and additional health checks.

Only Saudis and expatriate residents from various nationalities are allowed to perform the Haj rituals this year, as a precautionary measure to avoid crowds and stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saudi authorities said the decision is in line with the keenness of Kingdom’s leadership to ensure the public safety amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

The pilgrimage, which is scheduled for late July this year, is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, with more than 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Haj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

Saudi Arabia asked Muslims in March to put their Haj plans on hold and suspended Umrah until further notice.