Saudi Arabia is to gradually resume a Muslim pilgrimage which has been suspended for seven months because of the coronavirus pandemic. From 4 October, up to 6,000 Saudi citizens and residents will be allowed to undertake the Umra each day. Pilgrims from countries deemed safe will be permitted from 1 November, when the daily capacity will rise to 20,000.
The Umra is an extra, optional pilgrimage that can be undertaken any time of the year. Although it includes some of the rituals of the most important pilgrimage, the Hajj, they are shortened and there are fewer of them.
The Hajj is a journey that every adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able. This year, Saudi Arabia allowed only a few thousand people living in the kingdom to undertake the Hajj. It usually attracts about two million Muslims from across the world. The upcoming 20,000 daily limit on pilgrims undertaking the Umra will remain in place "until the official announcement of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic or the disappearance of the danger", the state-run Saudi Press Agency cited an interior ministry source as saying.
"The arrival of Umra performers and visitors from outside the kingdom shall be gradual from the countries that are free from health risks related to the coronavirus pandemic," the person said.
Pilgrims will be asked to adhere to preventative measures and health guidelines, including wearing face masks, practising social distancing, and avoiding physical contact, the news agency reported.
Saudi Arabia has reported more than 330,000 cases of Covid-19 in total and 4,542 deaths. On Tuesday, 552 new infections and 30 deaths were recorded.