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Iran Press TV

Saudi Arabia to re-open Umrah pilgrimage to vaccinated foreign pilgrims

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 08 August 2021 10:10 AM

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will restart processing Umrah pilgrimage requests from foreign Muslims who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Monday, authorities will begin "receiving Umrah requests from various countries of the world," Saudi state TV announced on Sunday morning.

The announcement came about 18 months after Saudi officials shuttered all borders to Muslim pilgrims due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Media reports said that initially 60,000 Umrah pilgrims will be accepted per month and that number will gradually grow to two million foreign worshipers per month.

An official in the Hajj and Umrah Ministry said domestic and foreign pilgrims will be required to include an authorized COVID-19 vaccination certificate along with the documents needed for the visit.

Vaccinated pilgrims who come from countries on Saudi Arabia's no entry list will be subject to institutional quarantine upon arrival.

Saudi Arabia has banned travel to or transit from a number of countries including Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates.

"The Ministry of Interior stresses that citizens are still banned from traveling directly or via another country to these states or any other that has yet to control the pandemic or where the new strains have spread," the official said.

The Umrah pilgrimage is a short visit to Islam's two holiest sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina and can be undertaken at any time of the year. The regular Hajj pilgrimage is a more elaborate visit that takes place once annually.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted both pilgrimages, which are huge sources of income for Saudi Arabia, bringing the kingdom at least $12 billion per year.

The country resumed visits for immunized domestic worshipers in October last year and the regular Hajj took place in July this year and last year with a limited number of domestic worshipers.

Riyadh launched a nationwide vaccination program to revive its tourism industry while making jabs mandatory for those seeking to enter government and private spaces, as well as movie theaters, schools and sports venues. The use of public transport also requires a certification by health officials.

Saudi Arabia, with a population of 30 million people, has registered some 532,000 coronavirus infections and the official COVID death toll stands at 8,189.

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