As Saudi Arabia is facing a second wave of coronavirus epidemic, the authorities are now thinking to call off this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage for the first time in recent history. According to the reports, Saudi Arabia which has lately reported fresh coronavirus cases may cancel the highly anticipated Muslim holy pilgrimage to Mecca this year.
Since the first week of June, the number of new coronavirus cases has doubled and according to the Ministry of Health, 4,919 new cases were reported on Wednesday alone, reversing the earlier trend in the Islamic kingdom.
The Authorities in Saudi Arabia had started relaxing lockdown norms in May as the Coronavirus cases were showing a downward trend. Curfew times were reduced, congregational prayers in mosques were allowed, businesses were opened and domestic flights were resumed.
But since June 1, the new Coronavirus cases started rising sharply. Following the fresh scare, the authorities in Saudi had re-imposed a lockdown in the city of Jeddah from June 6, with imposing a curfew and ban on all non-essential work and activities. Officials say that the cases have increased as people violated social distancing norms during the lockdown period, especially during the Ramazan month. It is believed that people ignored government’s directives by holding iftar parties after the day-long fast with large gatherings of friends and family.
Coronavirus impacts 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims
The impact of the second wave of the pandemic has now affected over 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who visit Mecca every year for the hajj pilgrimage. The annual pilgrimage of Hajj may not happen at all this year.
Meanwhile, Muslim nations are urging Saudi Arabia to provide clarity on whether the annual ritual will go ahead as scheduled in late July.
Already, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei have cancelled the annual Hajj event and other countries are also expected to make a decision in coming days regarding attending the pilgrimage. In France, faith leaders have urged Muslims to “postpone” their pilgrimage plans until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to cancel the Hajj will be the first time since the kingdom was founded in 1932. Earlier, Saudi Arabia had managed to hold the pilgrimage during previous outbreaks of Ebola and MERS.