Saudi authorities said they will reimpose "social distancing requirements between worshippers and pilgrims" at the Grand Mosque, without specifying whether a capacity has been set.

Earlier, the kingdom had said social distancing and masks were again required in both indoor and outdoor venues.

The kingdom of approximately 34 million people has so far recorded more than 554,000 coronavirus cases, including 8,874 deaths, the highest number of fatalities among the Gulf Arab countries.

On Wednesday, Saudi recorded 744 cases, the highest number since mid-August. The Covid-19 pandemic hugely disrupted Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in some US dollar 12 billion annually.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar -- have been recording their highest numbers of new cases in months.

Despite having the world's highest vaccination rate, the UAE has recorded the largest number of infections among Gulf countries at more than 757,000. On Wednesday, it recorded 2,234 infections, the highest number since June.

The Emirates' Abu Dhabi crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, sought to reassure the people that "the UAE health sector is fully geared and prepared to address any challenges", according to the official WAM news agency.

The UAE is gearing up to host New Year's Eve celebrations, including at Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, in the emirate of Dubai. Dubai, which is heavily dependent on tourism, was one of the world's first destinations to welcome back visitors July 2020. It is also counting on the six-month Expo 2020 trade fair to boost its economy.

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