To prevent viral spread, Saudi Arabia has drastically limited Hajj pilgrimage.   Saudi Arabia said only “very limited numbers” of pilgrims could perform the hajj this year, with only Saudis and foreign nationals already in the kingdom allowed to take part.

According to media reports, an announcement on Saudi state media says only a very limited number of people currently living in the kingdom may take part, an announcement on state media says.

The Saudi authorities say this is the only way they will be able to make plans for social distancing that will keep people safe.

An estimated two million people would otherwise have visited Mecca and Medina this summer for the annual gathering.

There had been fears the Hajj might be cancelled altogether, according to the BBC.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly recorded 161,005 cases of infection and 1,307 deaths.  It only lifted a nationwide lockdown at the weekend.

Each year, Saudi Arabia welcomes millions of Muslims from abroad traveling on Umrah and Hajj.  Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a pilgrimage to Mecca which adult Muslims must make at least one in their lifetime, provided they are physically and financially able. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God.  The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar.  Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year.