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WHO chief lauds Saudi Arabia’s decision to host limited Hajj

The prayer halls can now accommodate up to 300,000 worshipers. Source: Arab News. 
GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it supported Saudi Arabia’s move to hold a limited Hajj this year, saying that putting health first is a choice all countries must make during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday, Director-General WHO DrTedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow a very limited number of pilgrims of different nationalities who are currently inside the Kingdom to perform this year’s Hajj.
The WHO chief said that the decision was made based on a risk assessment and analysis of different scenarios in accordance with WHO guidance to protect the safety of pilgrims and minimize the risk of transmission.
“WHO supports this decision. We understand that it was not an easy decision to make, and we also understand it is a major disappointment for many Muslims who were looking forward to making their pilgrimage this year,” the WHO chief said. “This is another example of the hard choices that all countries must make to put health first,” he added.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia to hold ‘very limited’ Hajj this year

Saudi Arabia has announced it will hold a “very limited” Hajj this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with people already living in the kingdom allowed to take part in the pilgrimage.
“It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers … with different nationalities in the kingdom,” the official news agency said on Monday.
The decision comes in light of the increase in coronavirus cases around the world, the lack of a vaccine, and difficulty maintaining a safe physical distance among large numbers of pilgrims coming from overseas, the statement said.

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A limited Hajj would represent a major loss of revenue for the kingdom, which is already reeling from the shocks of the virus-induced slowdown and a plunge in oil prices. A full-scale Hajj drew about 2.5 million pilgrims last year but was unlikely after authorities advised Muslims in late March to defer preparations.
Earlier this month, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, withdrew from the pilgrimage after pressing for clarity and were followed by Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore. Saudi Arabia has suspended Umrah pilgrimage since late February due to the outbreak.
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