Riyadh: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has restricted the repetition of Umrah for foreign pilgrims, only allowing them to perform it three times during a 30-day stay amid concerns over rising COVID-19 cases in the country, local media reported.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has revealed that the mandatory interval of 10-days between the issuance of two Umrah permits is applicable to pilgrims aged 12 and above.
Based on the 10-day interval for repeating Umrah, the foreign pilgrims could undertake the rituals three times at most during their 30-day stay, Okaz reported.
The foreign pilgrims, coming to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, have to show status of immunization on the health app Tawakkalna.
According to a member of the national committee for Hajj and Umrah, Saeed Bahashwan, the Umrah service sector expects a significant rise in pilgrims from worldwide during the next three months of Rajab, Shaban, and Ramadan (Islamic months).
About Umrah and Haj
Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage that Muslims can perform at any time of the year. In February of 2020, it was suspended due to concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
However, later, in October 2020, the Saudi authorities reopened the Islamic holy sites for Umrah after a six-month hiatus. It was limited to Saudis and foreigners residing in the kingdom who were allowed to perform rituals in the Grand Mosque with a capacity of 30 per cent, i.e. only 6,000 people per day.
In 2021, Haj received only 60,000 people from within Saudi Arabia’s borders due to the ongoing risks from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 58,518 pilgrims performed the Haj in 2021. Of them 32,816 were male and the remaining 25,702 were females.
It was the second time in a row that the Saudi government had to reduce the number of pilgrims due to COVID-19. In 2020, only 10,000 pilgrims were able to perform Hajj due to the pandemic.
On October 17, 2021, the Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mosque in Madinah returned to full capacity.
On November 27, the ministry had set a minimum age of 18 years and has dropped the maximum age limit of 50 years for overseas pilgrims performing Umrah, as well as the permit for prayer at the Grand Mosque and Al-Rawdah Sharif at the Prophet’s Mosque and visit the Prophet’s grave following the easing of restrictions that were imposed following the COVID-19 outbreak.
On December 2, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that the institutional quarantine is not required for those foreign Umrah pilgrims who have taken two doses of COVID-19 vaccines approved in the Kingdom.
On December 29, Saudi Arabia reimposed wearing face masks and social distancing in outdoor and indoor places amid an increase in COVID-19 infections.