The Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah operated at full capacity on Sunday, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic restrictions began 18 months ago.
“The Grand Mosque is preparing for the dawn prayer today, with its full capacity and without distancing,” an official in Makkah was quoted by the official Saudi press agency (SPA), The National News reported.
On Sunday morning, workers were seen removing floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque.
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Videos shared on social media also showed people praying side by side, making straight rows of worshippers.
However, a number of precautionary measures will remain in place for people outside of their homes, including temperature checks upon entry into establishments and health status checks via the Tawakkalna app.
Public and private establishments will still be required to make hand sanitizer widely available.
“This is great news,” said Naushad Mohammed, a British citizen living in the kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia has done an impressive and tremendous job in taking care of its people, be it residents or citizens during the pandemic. We were all given free medical care and vaccines and are really lucky to have been here during the pandemic. I am glad we are turning a new chapter and hope the world can go back to normal.”
Saudi Arabia stopped the Umrah following the pandemic but reopened it to immunized domestic worshippers in October last year.
In August, the Kingdom announced it will begin accepting vaccinated foreigners wanting to make the Umrah pilgrimage.
In July, only around 60,000 inoculated residents were allowed to take part in a vastly scaled down form of the annual hajj.
Saudi Arabia has registered over 547,000 coronavirus cases and 8,760 deaths