Religion asks people to gather, but the coronavirus outbreak has seen many rites and traditions being disrupted.

But now with just five months to go before Islam’s most sacred pilgrimage – Hajj, it is unclear if Saudi Arabia will reopen holy sites to millions of foreign Muslims. Hajj hangs in the balance as fears about the coronavirus pandemic continue to rise.

The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) announced on its official social media accounts that the administration of the pilgrimage would be put on hold.

“Ministry of Hajj has requested we place a hold on all Hajj administration until further notice (sic),” the organisation posted on social media.

The developments come after the Umrah (non-mandatory and shorter pilgrimage) was suspended on 27th February due to fears related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The hajj and umrah pilgrimages contribute an estimated $12 billion a year (7per cent) to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product.