Saudi Arabia may cancel the highly anticipated Muslim holy pilgrimage to Mecca for the first time in the kingdom’s recent history due to a spike in new cases of coronavirus.
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On Wednesday, there were 4,919 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed, the highest number of cases in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Health.
Over 2.5 million people from around the world flock to Mecca every year for the hajj pilgrimage, but this year, the fate of the gathering remains uncertain.
Already, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei have said their citizens will not be attending the event, and other countries are expected to make a decision soon about attending the pilgrimage scheduled for the end of July.
Saudi Arabia was also supposed to be the destination for the prestigious G20 gathering of world leaders. However, due to the pandemic, November’s gathering will likely be virtual.
Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Abd al-Ali said Monday that lack of social distancing may have contributed to the surge in new infections, which seemed to be slashed in half at the end of May when coronavirus restrictions began to ease.
“The new reported cases include 52% Saudi citizens and 48% non-Saudi residents,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
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More than 7,400,000 foreign workers live in Saudi Arabia, according to the latest census conducted by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics (GaStat), many of whom live in overcrowded communities NBC News reported.