Capacity limits for Saudi citizens and residents performing umrah rituals have been increased to 75 percent, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The move is part of the kingdom’s second phase of gradual resumption of visits, which allows for prayers in the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Saudi Arabia to resume umrah pilgrimage to Makkah from October 4
Gulf kingdom had suspended the umrah in March and later scaled back the annual hajj amid fears that the coronavirus could spread to Islam’s holiest sites
According to the executive plan, drawn up by government agencies, this will see a maximum of 15,000 umrah performers and 40,000 worshippers per day.
The report said that each group will be allocated three hours only to complete umrah and “they will also be allowed to pray at Al-Rawadah Al-Sharifah, inside the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and greet the Prophet and his companions by 75 percent of the capacity that takes into account the precautionary health measures at Al-Rawadah Al-Sharifah of the Prophet’s Mosque”.
In a recent interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Minister of Health, Dr Mohammed Al-Abdulaali, said that measures, including more than 100 protocols, have been implemented to ensure the safety of the pilgrimage of Muslims to Makkah.
Al-Abdulaali stated that no one in high-risk categories can participate in the pilgrimage, but anyone can get a test, and treatment, free of charge regardless of status.
The umrah, the pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time, usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year, but it was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is being revived in three phases, with Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten saying earlier this month that 6,000 pilgrims per day will be allowed in the first stage to perform the umrah.
A raft of precautions have been adopted to ward off any outbreaks during the umrah. The revered Black Stone in the eastern corner of the Kaaba – which it is customary but not mandatory to touch during the pilgrimage – will be out of reach, while the Grand Mosque will be sterilised before and after each group of worshippers.
Visitors from abroad will be permitted in the third stage from November 1, when capacity will be raised to 20,000 and 60,000, respectively.