Middle East

Saudi Arabia opens Umrah pilgrimage to vaccinated worshipers from abroad - SPA

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Muslims, keeping a safe social distance, pray as they perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque after Saudi authorities ease the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, November 1, 2020. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

CAIRO, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will gradually begin receiving Umrah pilgrimage requests from abroad for vaccinated pilgrims starting Aug. 9 after about a year and a half of not receiving overseas worshippers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state news agency (SPA) reported early on Sunday.

With a capacity that would rise to 2 million pilgrims from 60,000 pilgrims per month, Mecca and Medina will start welcoming visitors from abroad to their mosques while maintaining COVID-19 precautionary measures.

An official in the Hajj and Umrah Ministry said domestic and overseas pilgrims will have to include authorized COVID-19 vaccination certificates along with their Umrah request.

Vaccinated pilgrims from countries that Saudi Arabia includes on its entry-ban list will have to be institutionally quarantined upon arrival, the report added.

Umrah, a pilgrimage to Islam's two holiest sites that is undertaken at any time of the year, was reopened in October for domestic worshippers after it was totally upon the outbreak of the pandemic.

Islam's holiest sites' home for the second year in a row had hosted a limited-numbered, domestic Haj pilgrimage in July.

Reporting by Alaa Swilam; Editing by David Gregorio and Daniel Wallis

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