Saudi Arabia opens Umrah pilgrimage to vaccinated persons abroad

A photograph taken on 5 March 2020 shows the white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca's Grand Mosque, empty of worshippers. Saudi Arabiaemptied Islam's holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus, an unprecedented move after the kingdom suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage last year

After about a year and a half of not receiving overseas pilgrims due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia will gradually begin receiving Umrah pilgrimage requests from abroad for vaccinated pilgrims starting Monday, reports UNB.

With a capacity that would rise to 2 million pilgrims from 60,000 pilgrims per month, Islam's two holiest sites Mecca and Medina will start welcoming visitors from abroad to their mosques while maintaining Covid-19 precautionary measures, Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday.

Domestic and overseas pilgrims will have to submit authorised Covid-19 vaccination certificates along with their Umrah request, an official of the Hajj and Umrah ministry said.

Vaccinated pilgrims from countries, which are on Saudi Arabia's entry-ban list, will have to undergo institutional quarantine upon arrival, the official added.

On 25 July, Saudi Arabia said it would allow pilgrims living outside the country to undertake the Umrah pilgrimage starting 10 August.

However, Umrah for Saudi citizens and residents in the Kingdom restarted that day.

In early July, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah stopped receiving applications for Umrah to prepare for Hajj, which began on the 17th of the month.

As Saudi Arabia announced the resumption of Umrah service for pilgrims worldwide from 1st Muharram 1443 after the end of the Hajj season, all countries were allowed to send direct flights except for nine.

Pilgrims from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Lebanon would need to undergo a quarantine of 14 days in a third country before arriving in the Kingdom, the authorities said.

Also, it was made mandatory to be vaccinated against Covid-19 with complete doses of either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or J&J; complete doses of China's vaccines with a booster shot of either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or J&J.

Umrah is a voluntary Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina undertaken any time of the year. In February last year, it was suspended over fears of the Covid-19 outbreak.

However, the Kingdom reopened Muslim holy sites for Umrah after a six-month pause in October same year for domestic worshippers.