The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is considering cancelling the annual pilgrimage of Hajj for the first time since the country’s creation in 1932, according to reports from The Financial Times. In the past, there have only been 40 occasions since the year 630 that the annual pilgrimage did not occur.
With the Islamic country having over 100,000 cases of the coronavirus, and the global pandemic not significantly slowing down, Saudi Arabia is left with few options. An official from the Hajj and Umrah ministry of the country told The Financial Times that they are considering all options, including only a limited number of local pilgrims with strict social distancing and anti-coronavirus measures in place. An official decision is expected by next week.
Hajj is one of the kingdom’s biggest attractions, attracting thousands of pilgrims from all across the world. The country expected more than $12 billion from Umrah and Hajj pilgrims in 2020. The Saudi economy, already hit hard by fluctuating oil prices, will find it difficult to recover, with religious tourism and hotels especially affected.
Global events such as the Tokyo Olympic Games have also been canceled due to the coronavirus, causing significant economic problems for various countries. Additionally, Saudi Arabia already suspended Umrah in February due to the virus.