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Saudi Arabia mulls plan to resume Umrah pilgrimage in phases

Saudi Arabia mulls plan to resume Umrah pilgrimage in phases

In the first phase, Saudi citizens and expatriates residing in the kingdom will be allowed to undertake the Umrah

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The Minister of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia, Saleh Benten, has said that the ministry is considering a three-phase plan to restore the Umrah pilgrimage, local media reported on Monday.

In the first phase, Saudi citizens and expatriates residing in the kingdom will be allowed to undertake the Umrah.

However, the Umrah will be restricted to only 40 per cent of its capacity to prevent overcrowding.

In the second phase, the capacity will be increased to 75 per cent.

In the third and final phase, it will be restored to 100 per cent of its capacity, and pilgrims from outside the kingdom will be allowed to attend too.

Benten also added that the ministry will launch an online application to streamline the process for pilgrims to pre-book a date and time to perform the Umrah.

He also added that he wants Umrah companies to become strong economic entities providing high-quality services through the I’tamarna application which will simplify the process for pilgrims to book their journeys.

He said that over 30 local and international companies will provide services to the pilgrims through an electronic platform, and that Umrah firms serve more than 16 million pilgrims from the around the world.

Abddulfattah Mashat, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, meanwhile confirmed that a forum titled “Managing Institutional Change and Transformation in the Umrah Sector” will be organised.

Mashat added that in 2019, 5.3 million Saudi citizens, 6.4 million expats, 1.2 million residents of GCC countries, and 7.5 million people from other parts of the world performed Umrah.

In June, here in the UAE, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments said that Hajj and Umrah-related businesses have been exempted from licence renewal fees from March until December 2020 and that it will also extend the validity of expired licences until December 2020.

Read: Hajj, Umrah related businesses exempt from licence renewal fees

Saudi Arabia has also begun to lift restrictions on international flights, allowing them to operate to and from the kingdom from September 15.

The authorities added that all travel restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic will be lifted beginning January 1, 2021.

Read: Saudi Arabia to permit residents to return from September 15; will lift all travel restrictions by January 1, 2021

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