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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia welcomes foreign Umrah pilgrims for first time in months

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Saudi Arabia on Sunday welcomed the first batch of foreign Umrah pilgrims after entry was suspended to everyone outside the Kingdom for months as part of efforts to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

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Under the current third phase of eased restrictions, 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshippers from inside and outside of the country will be allowed to enter the Two Holy mosques and their courtyards.

The worshippers will be allowed to pray in the Two Holy Mosques and visit the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina – the chambers where the Prophet Mohammed was buried.

The age of foreign pilgrims must be between 18 to 50 years old and they must quarantine at their place of stay in Mecca for three days after they arrive in Saudi Arabia, according to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The pilgrims must also present a negative PCR test, issued by a reliable laboratory in their country, within 72 hours of their flight to the Kingdom.

Worshippers will have 10 days each to complete the Umrah ritual, the ministry said.

Precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of all visitors, a spokesman for the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque told Al Arabiya on Saturday.

Social distancing measures will be enforced at all times to prevent crowding, he added.

The courtyards are sanitized repeatedly throughout the day using more than 2,500 liters, of environmentally-friendly sterilizers, according to the spokesperson.

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More than 300 sanitizers have also been placed around the Two Holy Mosques, he said.

Medical teams are stationed in several areas around the courtyards and an isolation and medical check-up room has been designated in case of a suspected coronavirus case.

Saudi Arabia is planning to gradually ease restrictions in the coming months if the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Ministry of Health determines that it is safe to do so.