Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia resumes Umrah pilgrimage after 6 months

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RIYADH: After six months, Saudi Arabia on Sunday resumed the Umrah pilgrimage for hundreds of residents of the country amid stringent health measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hundreds of residents were welcomed into Makkah on Sunday who circled the Holy Kaaba along socially distanced paths. 

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques is received pilgrims. The pilgrims gathered at allocated sites in Makkah including Ajyad, Al-Shasha, Al-Gazzah and Al-Zahir, and were transported to the Kaaba in special buses.

Moreover, at least 1,000 employees have been appointed to monitor Umrah rituals at the Grand Mosque which is cleaned 10 times a day.

In order to ensure the safety of the Umrah pilgrims, thermal cameras have been placed at the entrances and inside halls of the Grand Mosque to monitor body temperature spikes and issue alerts if necessary.

The Kingdom took drastic measures to combat the pandemic and suspended the Umrah pilgrimage and prayers in mosques in mid-March.

Saudi Arabia also halted international flights and implemented a lockdown to prevent surge in virus cases.

Visitors from outside Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah from Nov 1

Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry said that the visitors from outside the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah from November 1 after the capacity of the holy site will be raised to 20,000 pilgrims per day.

The ministry added that Umrah, which refers to the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah that can be undertaken at any time of year, would be allowed to resume at full “natural capacity” once the threat of the pandemic is warded off.

The decision to resume Umrah was in response to the “aspirations of Muslims home and abroad” to perform the ritual and visit the holy sites.

The authorities took the decision after the Kingdom organised the smallest Hajj in modern history in late July, with only up to 10,000 Muslims participating in the religious ritual.

According to health authorities, no coronavirus cases were reported at the holy sites during the Hajj –  which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

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