A photograph taken on 5 March 2020 shows the white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca's Grand Mosque.
A photograph taken on 5 March 2020 shows the white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca's Grand Mosque. AFP file photo

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that it would start allowing pilgrims to perform Umrah gradually taking necessary precautions.

The interior ministry said the decision was made after assessing the development of the coronavirus and in response to the desire of Muslims around the world to perform the ritual, according to Arab News.

The first phase of the gradual return will include allowing citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 per cent from 4 October. This is the equivalent of 6,000 pilgrims per day.

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The second phase will increase the capacity of the Grand Mosque to 75 percent, which would include 15,000 pilgrims and 40,000 worshippers a day from 18 October.

In the third phase, pilgrims from abroad would be allowed to perform Umrah as of 1 November with at full capacity of 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshippers per day.

The fourth stage will see the Grand Mosque return to normal, when all the COVID-19 risks disappear.

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The entry of pilgrims, worshippers and visitors will be regulated through an application called “I’tamarna.”

The app is to be launched by the Hajj and Umrah ministry, with the aim of enforcing health guidelines and making it easier for pilgrims to book their journeys.

The interior ministry called on all people attending the holy sites to adhere to the preventive measures, wear face masks, maintain a safe distances from others, and refrain from physical contact.

The ministry said Saudi Arabia wants to “empower pilgrims, both from inside and outside the Kingdom, to be able to perform “the ritual in a safe and healthy manner,” while protecting them from the threats of the pandemic.”