British Muslims planning to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage are being advised to delay their bookings due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said pilgrims hoping to travel to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia should “wait and see” how the situation develops.
About two million people from across the world were expected to undertake the pilgrimage, which begins in late July.
The MCB’s statement comes after a Saudi official said people should “hold on to signing any agreements” to travel to the kingdom.
Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said: “Going for Hajj is one of the biggest events in a Muslim’s life, and there is no doubt that many will have been making plans to go this year.
“In these unprecedented times, it is imperative that public health is put first, and with millions of people from across the world coming to one place to perform the pilgrimage in close proximity to one another, it is sensible that we exercise a degree of caution and wait and see what the situation is closer to the time.”
Mr Khan urged UK-based Hajj tour operators to reassure existing customers that their bookings are financially protected by the Civil Aviation Authority’s Atol scheme.
In a statement, he also advised tour operators who may suffer financial loss to contact the Government for support.
Saudi Arabia closed off Mecca and Medina to foreigners in February this year following the Covid-19 outbreak.
It has since imposed a night-time curfew across the country and suspended all inbound and outbound flights as it grapples with more than 1,500 confirmed coronavirus cases.
There has been 10 deaths from the disease in the kingdom so far.
On Tuesday, the kingdom’s Hajj minister, Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Banten, told state television: “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is prepared to secure the safety of all Muslims and nationals.
“That’s why we have requested from all Muslims around the world to hold on to signing any agreements until we have a clear vision.”