Saudis halt Muslim pilgrimage over virus fears

Coronavirus

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)

CAIRO (AP) – Saudi Arabia’s decision to halt the umrah pilgrimage amid a global outbreak of a new virus is unprecedented in modern times. It could prevent millions of Muslims from undertaking a religious rite that many spend years saving up for.

Unlike the five-day hajj pilgrimage, which takes place once a year and is required for all Muslims who are able to undertake it, the lesser umrah pilgrimage can be performed at any time. More than 7 million Muslims from around the world made the umrah pilgrimage last year.

The decision to halt the pilgrimage is aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 82,000 people globally and caused more than 2,800 deaths.

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