Saudi Arabian authorities on Sunday re-opened the Muslim holy places for Umrah pilgrimage on Sunday after a six-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following coronavirus protocols, the first batch of Umrah pilgrims arrived in the early hours of Sunday, said the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Twitter. Without giving further details, the ministry shared photos of the visitors entering the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Saudis and foreign residents of the kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah, or the minor pilgrimage, at the Grand Mosque at a 30% capacity or 6,000 people per day as of Sunday.
Earlier, the official SPA news agency reported that the barricade placed around the Kaaba and the holy Black Stone will remain in its place and visitors will be prevented from touching them as part of the COVID-19 measures.
Masjid al-Haram, where the Kaaba is located, will be disinfected 10 times a day, SPA said, adding that quarantine rooms were already prepared for visitors showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Last week, Saudi Arabia announced that it will gradually lift a coronavirus-related travel ban for the Umrah pilgrimage.
The SPA said both local and international worshippers coming for Umrah and worship will be accepted as of November 1, while both Masjid al-Haram and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Madinah will be opened for worship at full capacity by taking COVID-19 protective measures.
Due to the pandemic, the Hajj pilgrimage this year was limited to those living in Saudi Arabia, and pilgrims from abroad were not accepted. Umrah is the Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah that Muslims can undertake at any time of the year.