Almost 18 months after it closed its borders to battle coronavirus, Saudi Arabia will from Monday start “regularly receiving umrah requests from numerous international locations”, the Saudi Press Company (SPA) reported.
The umrah might be undertaken at any time and often attracts hundreds of thousands from across the globe, in contrast to the annual hajj, which abled-bodied Muslims who’ve the means should carry out no less than as soon as of their lifetime.
The Covid-19 pandemic vastly disrupted each Muslim pilgrimages, that are often key income earners for the dominion that rake in a mixed $12 billion yearly.
Earlier than Sunday’s announcement, solely immunised pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia had been eligible for umrah permits.
And final month solely round 60,000 inoculated residents had been allowed to participate in a scaled down type of the annual hajj.
However the kingdom is slowly opening up, and has began welcoming vaccinated international vacationers since August 1.
International pilgrims should be immunised with a Saudi-recognised vaccine — Pfizer-BioNTech,
, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — and comply with bear quarantine if essential, the SPA mentioned quoting deputy hajj minister Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat.
He added that the dominion was engaged on figuring out the locations from which pilgrims can come and their numbers on a “periodic foundation based on the classification of preventive measures” in these international locations.
Barring abroad pilgrims has precipitated deep disappointment amongst Muslims worldwide, who usually save for years to participate.
“I really feel relieved in regards to the resumption of the umrah pilgrimage,” Ahmed Hamadna, 33, a gross sales supervisor in Egypt, advised AFP.
However he added that he was “involved in regards to the advanced procedures and measures through the pandemic”.
Engineer Mohamad Ragab, an Australian resident, mentioned he too was nonetheless “hesitant” to carry out the umrah pilgrimage.
“There’ll probably be crowds in Mecca and the probabilities of an infection are excessive,” he mentioned.
Based on the SPA report, Saudi Arabia will permit 60,000 pilgrims to carry out umrah every month, and regularly enhance that to achieve two million worshippers per 30 days.
Internet hosting the pilgrimages is a matter of status for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam’s holiest websites is their strongest supply of political legitimacy.
Riyadh has spent billions attempting to construct a tourism business from scratch, as a part of efforts to diversify its oil-reliant financial system.
The once-reclusive kingdom started issuing vacationer visas for the primary time in 2019 as a part of an bold push to revamp its international picture and draw guests.
Between September 2019 and March 2020, it issued 400,000 of them — just for the pandemic to crush that momentum as borders had been closed.
The federal government has accelerated a nationwide vaccination drive because it strikes to revive tourism and different pandemic-hit sectors, equivalent to sport competitions and leisure extravaganzas.
Vaccination is obligatory for anybody in search of to enter authorities and personal institutions, together with training establishments and leisure venues, in addition to to make use of public transport.
Saudi Arabia has registered almost 532,000 coronavirus instances and greater than 8,300 deaths.
The hajj, one of many 5 pillars of Islam, is often one of many world’s largest spiritual gatherings, with 2.5 million collaborating in 2019.