Saudi Arabia to reopen borders for vaccinated Umrah pilgrims

The government of Saudi Arabia says it will start receiving Umrah pilgrimage requests from abroad for vaccinated pilgrims starting on August 9.

Umrah is a pilgrimage performed by Muslims at any time of the year.

The country had in February 2020, suspended the issuance of visa to foreigners over fears of the coronavirus. Only immunised pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia were eligible for Umrah permits.

However, the kingdom is slowly opening up and has started welcoming vaccinated foreign tourists since August 1.

Quoting Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, deputy hajj minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said foreign pilgrims must be immunised with a Saudi-recognised vaccine  Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and agree to undergo quarantine if necessary.

The kingdom is also working on determining the destinations from which pilgrims can come and their numbers on a “periodic basis according to the classification of preventive measures” in those countries.

According to the SPA report, Saudi Arabia will allow 60,000 pilgrims to perform Umrah each month, and gradually increases that to reach two million worshippers per month.

In June, the Saudi Government had announced that hajj is still restricted to those residing in the country.

“In the light of what the world is witnessing with the continuing developments of the pandemic Covid-19, and the emergence of new variations, Hajj 1442 will be limited to the residents and citizens from within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ONLY ” the statement had said.

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