Only pilgrims and worshippers who have been immunized against COVID-19 or have fully recovered from the pandemic will be allowed into the Grand Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Monday.
Unlike Hajj, the shorter umrah pilgrimage is non-compulsory for Muslims and can be performed at any time of year.
The ministry also said it would increase the operational capacity of the holy mosque in adherence to COVID-19 measures and restrictions.
According to the guidelines issued by the Saudi authorities, the pilgrims will include individuals who have already received two vaccination dozes, the people who have received the first jab at least 14 days before their visit to Madinah and Makkah, and the ones who have had the virus and recovered.
Each person’s vaccination status will need to be registered on Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 app, Tawakkalna. The app was launched last year to help track coronavirus infections. Those who wish to visit the two mosques or perform Umrah will have to register via the Tawakkalna app and the Umrah app Eatmarna. Registrations will be accommodated according to the space and availability of the two mosques and by health restrictions. The Tawakkalna and Eatmarna apps are the only platforms available to issue genuine permits, and the ministry warned the public against resorting to bogus websites and application forms.
Saudi Arabia has reported more than 393,000 coronavirus infections and 6,700 deaths from Covid-19.
Nearly 10,000 Grand Mosque workers have already been inoculated as part of the Ramadan operational plan. The courtyard around the Kaaba and the first floor will be designated for pilgrims performing Tawaf only. Five areas will be available for prayers at the Grand Mosque, including the eastern courtyard.
More than 13 million worshippers wearing masks and observing physical distancing rules have visited the mosques since the seven-month prayer and Umrah suspension was lifted last October.
In Egypt, health officials warned that Ramadan would coincide with the third wave of COVID-19 infections.
“The beginning of the third wave depends on citizens’ commitment to precautionary measures, wearing face masks and following social distancing rules,” said Noha Assem, an adviser to the Egyptian minister of health. The month of Ramadan and family gatherings over iftar would probably lead to a significant increase in daily registered coronavirus cases, she said.