MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Muslims from across the world poured Sunday into a sprawling tent city in the Saudi desert before the start of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage, but the number of the pilgrims this year has been reduced in part by concerns over a respiratory virus centered in the Arabian peninsula.
More than 2 million pilgrims — about 1 million fewer than last year — streamed from the holy city of Mecca to a huge tent encampment in Mina about five kilometers (three miles) away to begin preparations for the hajj with a day of prayer and supplication.
Saudi authorities sharply cut back on visas for groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses as a precaution against a new respiratory virus related to SARS that has killed more than 50 people in the kingdom this past year. The Saudi health minister, Abdullah al-Rabiah, said late Saturday that no cases of the coronavirus infection have been detected among pilgrims.
Further visa restrictions were imposed because …continue reading at ctpost.com