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Saudi cuts pilgrim numbers due to construction

Published: Updated:

Expansion projects in the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina will result in a reduced number of pilgrims this year, Saudi’s Hajj minister said on Saturday, as reported by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The number of domestic pilgrims will be cut by 50% and international pilgrims by 20%, said Hajj Minister Bandar al-Hajjar. He added that the reduction of pilgrimages this year is “exceptional” and “temporary.”

According to al-Hajjar, current expansion projects include expanding the area of the Grand Holy Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Holy Mosque in Madinah, among other upgrades.

The decision comes also as Saudi Arabia battles the recent spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS) virus, which has killed 28 people in the kingdom out of 33 victims worldwide, according to AFP.

Some 3.1 million pilgrims performed the hajj last year, most of them from abroad.