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Saudi Arabia's hajj minister asked Muslims on Tuesday to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage amid uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic.

"Saudi Arabia is fully ready to serve pilgrims and umrah seekers," hajj minister Mohammad Benten told the state-run Al-Ekhbariya television, "but under the current circumstances, as we are talking about the global pandemic & the kingdom is keen to protect the health of Muslims and citizens and so we have asked our brother Muslims in all countries to wait before doing (hajj) contracts until the situation is clear."

Saudi authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year's hajj, scheduled for the end of July.

Saudi Arabia is scrambling to limit the spread of the disease at home. The kingdom's health ministry has reported 1,563 coronavirus infections and 10 deaths from the illness so far.

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