ISLAMABAD: Detailing the total number of hajj requests established in the previous week, Ministry of Religious Affairs presenter Imran Siddiqui said Sunday that more than 60,000 Pakistanis have taken interest in the pilgrimage this year.

The huge number is despite fears arising from the deadly coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 2,900 worldwide, with 4 confirmed cases reported in Pakistan.

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To facilitate interested pilgrims, the central bank of Pakistan has ordered 13 authorized banks to remain open on Saturdays and Sundays. Banks began accepting applications on February 25, March 6 being the last day of the registration process.

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At the end of last month, the federal cabinet approved the Hajj 2020 policy under which 179,210 pilgrims are expected to perform Hajj this year. Sixty percent of them will be portion of a government-facilitated Hajj program while 40 percent will benefit from the services of private operators.

The Hajj registration process follows a temporary ban imposed on Umrah pilgrims by Saudi Arabia on February 27 with the aim of ensuring public safety and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

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Commenting on the decision, Saudi ambassador to Islamabad Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki – during a meeting with Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri – said Friday that the Kingdom had imposed only one temporary travel ban lifted. as soon as the authorities were able to devise an appropriate mechanism for the safety of pilgrims.

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