Middle East Eye

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Ramadan 2021: Vaccinated Muslim pilgrims perform Umrah in Saudi Arabia

Muslim worshippers from around the world performed the year-round lesser pilgrimage known as umrah, on the first day of Ramadan. Umrah, unlike Hajj, is non-compulsory and can be performed at any time of year. Worshippers took part in congregational prayers while observing social distancing and wearing masks to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. (AFP)

Typically, the month of Ramadan sees a surge of pilgrims flocking to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, as Muslims believe that performing Umrah brings more spiritual reward during the month. (AFP)

According to Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry, three categories of people are considered “immunised”. This includes people who have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, those who have received a single dose at least 14 days prior to their pilgrimage, and people who have recovered from the infection. (AFP)

The Grand Mosque’s capacity during Ramadan will accommodate 50,000 Umrah pilgrims and around 100,000 worshippers per day. Restrictions have also been placed on Tarawih and Qiyam prayers, where guidance issued by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs states that the prayers should not exceed 30 minutes in all mosques around the kingdom.

It remains unclear if the policy will be extended to the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which is set to take place later this year. Last year, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended travel to the country’s holiest sites amid fears that it would encourage the spread of the virus. The suspension left travel agents scrambling to rearrange bookings. Many pilgrims also cancelled their trips. (Reuters)

Only 10,000 Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia were allowed to complete Hajj last year, a significant difference from the 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who participated in 2019.

Saudi Arabia has reported over 390,000 coronavirus cases and 6,700 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year. Authorities state that Umrah will be allowed to return to full capacity once the threat of the pandemic is eliminated. (AFP)