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Saudi to resume Umrah and visits to the Grand Mosque in phases

Saudi to resume Umrah and visits to the Grand Mosque in phases

The first phase will begin on October 4, with international visitors expected to be allowed from November

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Saudi Arabia has announced that the Umrah pilgrimage as well as visits to the Holy Mosques will resume in phases with Covid-19 precautionary measures in place.

A royal approval has been issued to permit visitors in four stages starting from October 4, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, quoting an official source at the Ministry of Interior.

Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah for citizens and residents in the kingdom due to the coronavirus outbreak in early March.

Read: Saudi temporarily suspends Umrah for citizens, residents over coronavirus outbreak

In the first phase, citizens and expatriates in the kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah, starting from Sunday, October 4, at 30 per cent of the capacity – equating to 6,000 Umrah performers per day, taking into account the health precautionary measures in place at the Grand Mosque.

The second phase, starting from October 18, will see the performance of Umrah, as well as visits from those in the kingdom raised to 75 per cent of the capacity – standing at 15,000 pilgrims per day and 40,000 worshippers a day – at both the Grand Mosque, as well as the Holy Raudah in the Prophet’s Mosque.

The third stage, set to begin on November 1, will permit citizens and expatriates from inside and outside the kingdom to perform Umrah and visit the Holy Mosques at 100 per cent capacity – 20,000 pilgrims per day and 60,000 worshippers a day. Pilgrims and visitors from the countries deemed “free from Covid-19 health risks” will be permitted, the report stated.

The fourth stage, which will see complete resumption of capacity at the Grand Mosque once the “risks of the pandemic have disappeared”.

The entry of pilgrims, worshippers and visitors shall be regulated through an application called Etamarna, which will be launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

It will seek to implement health standards and controls approved by the Ministry of Health.

Officials urged all those visiting the holy sites to adhere to preventive measures and apply the health instructions and requirements, including wearing masks, keeping a safe distance, and avoiding physical contact.

The report added that the resumption of each phase will be subject to continuous evaluation, according to the developments of the pandemic.

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.

This year, due to the pandemic, the kingdom allowed only about 1,000 pilgrims – all from inside Saudi Arabia – to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

However, Saudi has started easing restrictions in recent weeks as the number of new coronavirus cases reported in the kingdom have reduced.

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

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