The Islamic pilgrimage of Umrah will open to as many as 250,000 pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia beginning October 18.
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The move will mark the second phase of the gradual resumption of the pilgrimage, which takes place in Mecca and Medina, following its temporary closure due to coronavirus.
Hani al-Omairi, a member of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, announced the policy and other changes to the pilgrimage on Tuesday.
Worshippers will be allowed to visit the Rawdah – the chambers where the Prophet Muhammad was buried – and the old mosque area at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Hani al-Omairi told Saudi newspapers on Monday.
More than 600,000 people will also be granted permits to pray at the Grand Mosque, he said.
Pilgrims will need to register for a permit on the Eatmarna application to perform Umrah and visit the Grand Mosque and Rawdah.
So far, only nationals and residents in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to visit the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina. However, al-Omairi confirmed the previous announcement that foreign pilgrims will be allowed to visit starting from November 1.
Authorities are expected to announce which countries will be allowed to send pilgrims to perform Umrah soon, he added.
The gradual resumption of Umrah comes as part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak during pilgrimage, which sees hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.
Only 6,000 pilgrims have been allowed to perform Umrah each day under the first phase currently in place.
Each small group of pilgrims is only given three hours to complete the ritual, and no one is allowed to approach the Kaaba and the Black Stone.
The Grand Mosque is also sterilized 10 times every day and Zamzam water is being distributed in packaged bottles.
Zamzam water comes from a well located around 20 meters away from the Kaaba.
Medical teams are stationed in several areas around the courtyard and an isolation and medical check-up room has been designated in case of a suspected coronavirus case.