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Saudi Arabia limited the number of pilgrims allowed to attend the hajj last year to about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia announced Saturday it was barring foreign visitors and limiting this year's hajj pilgrimage to 60,000 people from within the kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It's the second year the pandemic has forced the country to restrict the annual pilgrimage, which typically draws 2 million Muslims from around the world. The hajj last year was limited to about 1,000 people.

Details: “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is honored to host pilgrims every year, confirms that this arrangement comes out of its constant concern for the health, safety and security of pilgrims as well as the safety of their countries,” the Hajj and Umrah Ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency Saturday.

  • Those seeking to participate in this year's pilgrimage must be between 18 and 65 years old and vaccinated, the ministry added.
  • The hajj is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, and all able-bodied Muslims are required to complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetimes.

The big picture: Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 463,000 COVID-19 cases and 7,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic, per Johns Hopkins University data.

  • The kingdom, home to more than 30 million people, has administered about 15.4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the World Health Organization.

Go deeper

Sep 19, 2021 - World

Cuba becomes first country to begin mass vaccination of children

A child receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a school in Havana on Sept. 16. Photo: Joaquin Hernandez/Xinhua via Getty Images

Cuba this week became the first country in the world to begin the mass vaccination of children against the coronavirus, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The effort comes in response to a recent uptick in cases, which led Cuban officials to scrap plans to reopen schools earlier this month.

Updated Sep 19, 2021 - Health

Footage shows new details after NYC restaurant incident over proof of vaccination

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Three tourists were arrested after allegedly assaulting a New York City restaurant hostess when she asked for proof of their vaccination status before they could be seated indoors, the New York Times reports.

The latest: On Saturday, lawyers for the restaurant and the three women revealed that the tourists had in fact shown proof of vaccination and been allowed into Carmine's Italian restaurant, according to the Times.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.