Muslims’ minor pilgrimage to Mecca resumed after 7-month suspension

Riyadh, Oct 4 (efe-epa).- Mecca’s Great Mosque on Sunday received worshippers to perform Umrah, the minor Hajj, for the first time after nearly a seven-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Only a limited number of Saudi residents were allowed to circle around Kaaba, a cubic-shaped building Muslims face during their prayers, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

The Umrah was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Saudi authorities announced a plan to gradually resume the rituals as of Sunday, starting with the residents in the kingdom.

During the first phase, the mosque will receive a maximum of 6,000 pilgrims a day divided in groups, with each one given three hours to complete the rituals, according to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The second phase, which begins on 18 October, allows 15,000 people – at 75 percent capacity –  to perform Umrah a day. Foreigners can carry out the rituals as of 1 November.

Saudi authorities have implemented a series of precautionary measures, including obligatory face masks, social distancing and disinfecting the mosque after the departure of each group of worshippers.

The ministry has launched a mobile application for the people who want to perform Umrah or visit the Mecca mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina to register.

The app allows them to verify their health condition, carry out the necessary procedures, determine the closest meeting point in the map applications and reserve housing and transportation services.

In the first hour of its launch, last week, about 16,000 applications were registered in the “Eitamarna” application.

Although the number of the applicants has risen to 454,773, only 171,437 permits have been issued as of Saturday night, according to data provided by SPA. EFE-EPA

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