RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Haj minister asked Muslims on Tuesday to temporarily defer preparations for Haj amid uncertainty over the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah over fears of the new coronavirus.
“Saudi Arabia is fully ready to serve pilgrims,” Haj minister Mohammad Benten told the state-run Al Ekhbariya television.
“But under the current circumstances, as we are talking about the global pandemic […] the kingdom is keen to protect the health of Muslims and citizens and so we have asked our brother Muslims in all countries to wait before doing Haj contracts until the situation is clear.”
Saudi authorities have yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year’s Haj.
Haj, which last year attracted 2.5 million people, is a key revenue earner for Saudi Arabia.
The government is scrambling to limit the spread of the disease at home. The health ministry has reported 1,563 coronavirus infections and 10 deaths from the illness so far.