As nations look forward to COVID-free times ahead, Masjid Al-Haram or the Grand Mosque drops social distancing for Umrah and Hajj pilgrims. The authorities took this decision by keeping the faith of worshippers and acute vaccination drives in the light. Moreover, the daily cases and deaths due to COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia are seeing a constant decline.
On 17th Oct 2021, Grand Mosque removes the markings for maintaining social distance as it prepares to work at full capacity. On Sunday morning, local media released pictures and footage of people praying alongside each other, symbolizing the restriction-free opening of Al-Haram.
Though authorities are relaxing the social distancing for the pilgrims, they will still strictly follow other COVID-19 protocols. Worshippers coming from all around the world and Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage should produce a certificate of vaccination and wear masks at all times. The holy Kaaba will remain unavailable from the general public’s reach.
The authorities have lifted the restrictions on fully vaccinated people gathering at public places. Restaurants and cinemas will work as normal, keeping COVID-19 protocols alive. As per their will, people can wear masks or not in open places but are mandatory in closed confinements. Additionally, vaccinated fans can attend sports events in the arenas and stadiums all around Saudi Arabia.
Umrah And Hajj During COVID-19 in 2021
Hajj is an essential pilgrimage that every Muslim has to do at least once in their lifetime. Hajj, along with Umrah, holds extreme importance in Islamic traditions. Therefore, authorities wouldn’t unnecessarily restrict people for long when the daily cases of infection have dropped considerably.
In July, only 60,000 fully vaccinated local pilgrims were allowed to carry out Hajj during COVID-19. The number is significantly less as compared to 2 million average hajj attendance every year. Also, the Umrah pilgrimage has seen a drastic decline due to COVID-19 restrictions. As the infection spread because of close human interactions, the restrictions were crucial to curb the new variants of the virus. Consequently, the annual revenue of the Kingdom of $12 billion from these two major pilgrimages has took a heavy toll.
As the Grand Mosque drops social distancing, it is expected to result in an increased influx of pilgrims. Vaccination has provided hope and faith in a better future. From August, fully inoculated foreigners were allowed to perform Umrah under strict guidelines. News of restrictions lifting from Hajj and Umrah Pilgrimage is making restaurateurs and cinema theatres to be on their forefront. Malls are stalking up products to become locals’ delight. Restaurants have started to stack up and prepare for a surge in customers.
Authorities are launching new apps and ways to ease on to the process of pilgrimage registrations. Pilgrims coming to Makkah for Hajj and Umrah can make use of biometric self-registration. Also, due to many apps, people can see the infected individuals around them. The authorities are opting for new and best alternatives to make Umrah and Hajj secure. The authorities will serve holy water from the Zamzam well in single-use bottles. Moreover, the sterilization of bottles will effectively prevent any chances of spreading the COVID infection.
Ministry of Health And Hajj Authorities Recommendations
Authorities suggest worshippers take extra precautions on their part while performing pilgrimage. Further, they request the pilgrims to avoid unnecessary involvement with the crowd and wear masks in and out of Al-Haram. They should use sanitizers frequently, as suggested by the medical experts. Pilgrims should take advantage of online applications for visa and pilgrimage registrations. They should also install data-providing apps to identify COVID-19 infected individuals in their proximity. Finally, if a person feels sick and develops COVID-19 symptoms, the health ministry suggests they isolate themselves and seek medical guidance immediately.
In the wake of cases declining every day, Grand Mosque prepares to work at full capacity. Pilgrims can now pray restriction-free and focus on their devotion alone. As Hajj is an essential pilgrimage and is one of the five pillars of Islam, the excitement among the devotees for the restriction being lifting of is eminent. Skeptics are unsure about the safe Hajj and Umrah during COVID-19 as all are aware of the past havoc of the virus. But as the future is unstable and risks of new strains of infection loom worldwide, the authorities are on high alert. The authorities recommend pilgrims update themselves with the rules and regulations while performing Hajj and Umrah.