Amid Coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia to gradually resume Umrah pilgrimage
Saudi Arabia will allow pilgrims living inside the country to undertake the Umrah pilgrimage, beginning on October 4, after a seven-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, state news agency Saudi Press Agency has reported.
In March, the country had declared a freeze on Umrah, which is an Islamic pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina undertaken any time of the year, attracting 19 million people last year.
From 4 October, up to 6,000 Saudi citizens and residents will be allowed to undertake the Umra each day, representing 30 percent of a revised capacity of 20,000 that takes into account precautionary health measures, SPA said.
From 1 November, pilgrims from countries deemed safe will be permitted to perform Umrah, which means capacity will expand 70 percent reaching 100 percent of the revised capacity, until the end of the pandemic, SPA added.
The upcoming 20,000 daily limit on pilgrims undertaking the Umra will remain in place “until the official announcement of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic or the disappearance of the danger”, the state-run Saudi Press Agency cited an interior ministry source as saying.
“The arrival of Umra performers and visitors from outside the kingdom shall be gradual from the countries that are free from health risks related to the coronavirus pandemic,” the person said.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is developing a mobile application that will be available a week before the Umrah resumes, so that pilgrims can register and book on it. They will also need to follow the health guidelines provided in the app.
The Hajj is a journey that every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able.
While the Umra is an extra, optional pilgrimage that can be undertaken any time of the year.
This year, Saudi Arabia allowed only a few thousand people living in the kingdom to undertake the Hajj. It usually attracts about two million Muslims from across the world.