Respiratory Virus Curbs Annual Hajj Numbers

Saudi officials reduce visas available to foreign Muslims participating in the annual pilgrimage to Mecca

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Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca October 13, 2013.

Approximately two million Muslim devotees poured into the Islamic holy city of Mecca over the weekend to celebrate the hajj pilgrimage. However, Saudi authorities said the spread of the MERS respiratory virus across the Arabian Peninsula forced them to reduce the number of available visas for foreign pilgrims traveling to the kingdom for the celebrations.

According to statistics published by Al Jazeera, foreign attendance at the hajj dropped to 1.37 million, down from last year’s 1.75 million, due to the lower visa quotas.

The respiratory infection has killed 60 people globally and more than 50 in Saudi Arabia.

[Al Jazeera]