Taking sample for COVID-19 test – Illustrative image (Source: xinhua/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi announced on June 2 that the country decided to cancel the 2020 Haj pilgrimage as local Muslims are worried about the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Razi said that this decision was made due to concerns over the novel coronavirus and ongoing travel restrictions.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Indonesians go on the Haj to Saudi Arabia, where Islam’s two holiest sites – Mecca and Medina – are located. For many Indonesians, the religious pilgrimage is a once-in-a lifetime event, with the average wait time 20 years due to a quota system.

Saudi Arabian authorities have already said the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages, which attract millions of travellers from around the world, will remain suspended until further notice.

The quota for Indonesian pilgrims this year was 221,000, with more than 90 percent already registered to go, according to the religious affairs ministry website.

Saudi Arabia had recorded 87,142 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 525 deaths as of June 2.

Meanwhile, Thai people start visiting temples again as the mostly Buddhist country is easing coronavirus lockdown. They are required to take precautions such as wearing masks and getting temperature checks before entering the grounds.

Thailand has so far recorded over 3,000 infections and 58 deaths, but reported no local transmission in the past week, helping accelerate moves to ease restrictions.

Thai authorities had not directly ordered the closure of the country’s roughly 40,000 temples due to the pandemic, but many chose to shut or bring in tight restrictions./.

VNA