Saudi authorities said on Monday only people vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to perform the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, starting from the holy month of Ramazan.
The Haj and Umrah ministry said in a statement that only “immunised people” will be granted permits to perform Umrah as well as prayers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Last month, the Saudi government had announced that there would be no iftar gatherings or Aitekaf at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina during Ramazan.
Visitors from outside the country will not be able to perform Umrah during Ramazan as Saudi Arabia has already suspended international flights till May 17.
The country’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) earlier said that international airports will reopen and international flights will be allowed to resume on May 17 — after Ramazan is over.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Haj and Umrah had advised those wanting to perform Umrah to get vaccinated beforehand.
“Preventative protocols will continue to be in place, but as a precautionary measure, it is advised that all those who wish to perform the ritual take the Covid-19 vaccine,” he was quoted as saying by Al-Arabiya.
Other restrictions that the minister had announced included wearing masks at all times during Umrah, age limits wherein only those between 18 to 50 years would be allowed to perform it and enforcement of social distancing.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom has made it mandatory for people involved in preparations for Haj and Umrah to get vaccinated by the first of Ramazan, according to reports.
Last year, Saudi Arabia had hosted a drastically reduced Haj in late July for the first time in modern history, with a few thousand domestic pilgrims instead of the usual white-clad sea of some three million Muslims.
It had also partially lifted a coronavirus ban on performing Umrah in October 2020 after a seven-month hiatus. Citizens and residents were allowed to start performing Umrah at 30 per cent capacity, or 6,000 pilgrims a day.