After Six-Month Restraint, Pilgrims Return to Ka`bah for Umrah

A limited number of lucky people circled Islam’s holiest site in Makkah on Sunday, Oct 4, after Saudi Arabia had lifted coronavirus restrictions that were in place for months.

The first Umrah pilgrims entered the mosque at 6 am on Sunday after applying through the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s Eatmarna app, Arab News reported.

The new decision to resume Umrah comes six months after the kingdom took the rare step of suspending the minor pilgrimage to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Only Saudi citizens and residents have the chance to enter the mosque during this first phase of reopening. Each pilgrim has up to three hours to complete the pilgrimage.

The Saudi officials also said workers would sterilize and clean the Grand mosque multiple times a day.

The Saudi Hajj minister said each group of 20 or 25 pilgrims would be accompanied by a health worker and medical teams will be on the ground in case of an emergency.

State TV showed on Sunday what appeared to be fewer than 50 people circumambulating the Kaaba at the same time and walking several meters apart.

Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia has taken drastic measures to halt its spread.

The kingdom held a dramatically downsized, symbolic hajj pilgrimage in July due to concerns that it could easily have become a global super-spreader event for the virus.

Despite taking early and sweeping measures to contain the virus, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 330,000 cases, including more than 4,500 deaths.