Friday, October 23, 2020

Saudi Arabia to lift umrah travel ban in stages

Saudis and foreign residents will be allowed to perform the umrah at 30% capacity by Oct 4.

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Saudi Arabia will gradually lift a coronavirus-related travel ban for the umrah pilgrimage starting early next month, reports Anadolu Agency.

According to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency early Wednesday, the decision to allow the resumption of umrah, or the minor pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims, came after a nearly six-month hiatus.

As of Oct 4, Saudis and foreign residents of the kingdom will be allowed to perform the umrah at Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque in Mecca, at 30% capacity or 6,000 people per day, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing a source in the interior ministry.

Meanwhile, as of Oct 18, the kingdom will allow 15,000 pilgrims per day to perform the umrah and prayers at Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, or the Prophet’s Mosque, in Medina.

The agency said both local and international worshippers coming for umrah and worship will be accepted as of Nov 1, while Masjid al-Haram and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi will be opened for worship at full capacity with protective measures in place.

“An official source at the Ministry of Interior affirms the kingdom’s keenness to enable pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom to perform rituals in a safe and healthy manner, fulfilling the preventative requirements and spatial distancing in order to ensure safety,” SPA said on Twitter.

Due to the pandemic, the haj pilgrimage this year was limited to those living in Saudi Arabia, and pilgrims from abroad were not accepted.

The novel coronavirus has spread to 188 countries and regions since emerging in Wuhan, China in December, with the US, India and Brazil being the hardest-hit areas in the world.

More than 31.45 million cases have been reported worldwide. The death toll has exceeded 967,300, while recoveries have surpassed 21.58 million, according to data compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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