The Kaaba, a holy Islamic shrine. Photo: Abdel Ghani Bashir/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia said on Monday that it will only allow "very limited numbers" of people to perform the annual hajj this summer due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, AP reports.

Why it matters: The pilgrimage, which is set to occur at the end of July, typically draws around 2 million people from around the world. The Saudi government noted that only people already residing in the country will be authorized to participate.

  • "This decision was taken to ensure hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective," government officials said.
  • The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islamic faith, and all able-bodied Muslims are required to complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

Between the lines: Saudi Arabia is a hotbed for the virus in the Middle East, with approximately 161,000 total confirmed cases and more than 1,300 deaths.

  • The country earlier this year suspended the smaller year-round umrah pilgrimage and closed the Grand Mosque in Mecca to curb the virus' spread.
  • Saudi Arabia has recently eased some of its coronavirus restrictions but continues to keep its borders shut to visitors.

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