Saudi Arabia charts a game plan for Umrah this year


Saudi authorities said, on Monday, only people immunized against Covid-19 are to be allowed in the Kingdom to perform the year-round Umrah pilgrimage starting from the holy month of Ramadan.

The Hajj and Umrah ministry, in a statement, has specified three categories of people who are to be considered immunized. The first category comprises of those who have received a complete dosage (two doses) of the vaccine, the second is of those who have been administered a single dose (almost 14 days prior), and the third category is of those people who have completely recovered from the infection.

People falling in these three categories will be considered eligible for permits to perform umrah and to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The statement added that the condition applies for entry to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina as well.

The ministry said that the policy starts with Ramadan itself, which is due to begin this month, but so far it is unclear how long it would last. It is also not clear whether the policy would, in any way, be extended to the hajj pilgrimage later this year. This policy statement comes amid a surge in coronavirus infections in the kingdom

So far, Saudi has reported nearly 393,000 coronavirus infections and almost 6,700 deaths from the virus. The kingdom’s ministry of health has said that nearly five million coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the country that has a population of over 34 million.

Last month, King Salman changed the hajj minister, months after the smallest hajj was hosted due to the pandemic. Mohammad Benten, the health minister, was relieved from his post and was replaced by Essam bin Saeed, according to a press release published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA). Hajj was hosted in late July last year.



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