Saudi Arabia is asking Muslims around the world to be patient and delay their plans for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages amid uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the Kingdom's Minister of Hajj and Umrah said.
The Kingdom's Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, said that Saudi Arabia was ready to receive and serve pilgrims at any time, but that the priority is currently placed for everyone's safety, Al Arabiya reported.
"Saudi Arabia is currently providing care for 1,200 pilgrims who could not return to their home countries. We also returned the sums to those who obtained an Umrah visa but could not perform the Umrah," Benten told al-Ekhbariyah television channel.
Saudi Arabia suspended all prayers in the outer courtyards of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina as part measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It also stopped all nationals and residents from visiting Mecca to perform Umrah or visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Medina.
The Hajj pilgrimage is one of Islam's five pillars, which all Muslims who are financially and physically able must perform at least once in their lifetime.