Saudi Arabia has announced that only about 1,000 people will be allowed to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage at the end of July — a decision that effectively cancels one of the world’s largest gatherings of Muslims.

In its morning briefing, the New York Times said the restrictions are meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the kingdom, which has one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East.

Last year, 2.5 million people took part in the pilgrimage. This year, those allowed at the hajj will have to be under 65 years of age and will be required to undergo a virus test in advance.

The announcement disappointed Muslims around the world, many of whom have saved for years to travel to Mecca, and it will deal a financial blow to the kingdom’s economy.

 “I am heartbroken, sad and disappointed, but what can one do?” said Qari Ali Gul, who runs a seminary in Peshawar, Pakistan. “This must be the will of God.”