Saudi Arabia has announced it will allow citizens and residents to perform the Umrah pilgrimage, starting from 4 October, after a nearly seven month hiatus due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Umrah will be gradually performed in four stages. On 4 October, citizens and residents already present in the country will be allowed to perform Umrah at a rate of 6,000 pilgrims per day, representing 30% of the modified capacity. The reduced number takes into account the precautionary health and safety measures inside the Grand Mosque at Mecca.
On 18 October, the number of pilgrims allowed will rise to 75% of the modified capacity, or 15,000 pilgrims.
At the beginning of November, Saudi Arabia will allow visitors from certain safe countries to participate in the Umrah rituals at 100% of the capacity allowed considering the circumstances. This will see a total of 20,000 pilgrims take part in the rituals, taking into account the precautionary measures against the virus.
Saudi Arabia said that it will allow the full participation of pilgrims in the Umrah pilgrimage, from within the kingdom and abroad, once the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic come to an end.
The entry of pilgrims, worshipers and visitors will be regulated through the application (Umrahna), which will be launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. The application process is aimed at enforcing the health standards and controls approved by the country’s Ministry of Health and the competent authorities.
The number of participants in Umrah during the whole of last year reached about 19 million. Saudi Arabia suspended the performance of all Islamic pilgrimage rituals in March, as part of its measures to limit the spread of the global pandemic.
This year, the Saudi authorities organised a pilgrimage season for 10,000 citizens and residents of the kingdom.
Official data show that Hajj and Umrah generate about $12bn annually for the country.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia reported a total of 330,798 confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, in addition to 4,542 deaths.