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Saudi okays lesser Hajj for pilgrims, sets modalities

By NewsDesk

Saudi Arabia Government has disclosed that it would be opening the kingdom’s door for pilgrims to perform lesser Hajj (Umrah) from October, seven months after it was halted due to coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

It explained that the return of the Muslim minor pilgrimage would be phased in line with the kingdom’s safety measures introduced to curb spread of coronavirus among the citizens and foreign pilgrims.

As stated, Saudis and foreign residents in the kingdom would be able to perform the Umrah from October 4, while others would still be on hold pending such time clearance was given from relevant authorities for foreign pilgrims.

A source from country’s Interior Ministry source said that the kingdom would allow 15,000 pilgrims to perform the Umrah from October 18.

Through a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the source indicated that only 6,000 pilgrims per day would be allowed to perform the Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Mecca while ensuring social distancing measures were followed.

“Prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque in the city of Medina will also resume then. Muslims abroad will be allowed to start heading to the kingdom for the pilgrimage from Nov. 1, when 20,000 pilgrims per day will be allowed,” the statement said.

According to the source, 60,000 worshippers  would be allowed to pray at the two mosques per day and pilgrims would also be asked to wear a face mask and maintain a physical distance from one other starting from November.

As stated, the reduced capacity would remain in place until such times authorities decide that it was safe for full congregational prayers.

More than 19 million pilgrims performed the Umrah in 2019, according to official statistics.

In March, Saudi Arabia halted the Umrah, which can be undertaken at any time during the year, as part of measures it imposed amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has reported a significant drop in virus infection rates. The country has reported so far over 330,000 cases and 4,542 related deaths.

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