CAIRO (Reuters) - After a seven-month suspension due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia will allow pilgrims residing inside the country to offer Umrah beginning on October 4.
Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah undertaken any time of the year, attracting 19 million people last year. Saudi Arabia had instituted a freeze on Umrah in March.
"Based on the reports of the competent authorities regarding developments in addressing the coronavirus and in response to the aspirations of many Muslims at home and abroad to perform Umrah and visit, and based on the wise leadership's keenness on the health and safety of the visitors the Two Holy Mosques, a Royal Approval is issued to allow the performance of Umrah and the visit gradually with taking the necessary health preventative measures," read the official statement issued by Ministry of Interior.
It will now allow 6,000 citizens and residents inside the kingdom to perform Umrah daily, representing 30% of a revised capacity of 20,000 that takes into account precautionary health measures, SPA added. That will expand to 75% of capacity on October 18.
Beginning November 1, Saudi Arabia will allow visitors from specific countries deemed safe to perform Umrah at 100% of the revised capacity, until the end of the pandemic, SPA said.
This year, Saudi Arabia conducted a limited Haj, the larger pilgrimage that usually attracts around 3 million people, for a few thousand citizens and residents.
Official data show Haj and Umrah earn the kingdom about $12 billion a year.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia reported 330,798 total cases of coronavirus and 4,542 deaths, as cases in the Gulf region topped 800,000.
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