Saudi Arabia has reimposed preventive and precautionary measures against the coronavirus at the Great Mosque of Makkah and set new rules for Umrah pilgrims amid rising cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in recent weeks.
The General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs announced on Wednesday that it has allocated 34 routes or tracks in the Tawaf (circumambulation) area around the Holy Kaaba for Umrah pilgrims.
“Necessary plans were made to dispatch Umrah pilgrims and worshippers at certain times and providing prayer areas with social distancing stickers, so as to abide by social distancing standards while taking all preventive and precautionary measures,” the Director of Crowds Planning Administration Eng. Ayman Falamban was quoted as saying by the Saudi Press Agency.
He added that his department is committed to applying all quality and safety protocols and standards for visitors to the Grand Mosque through adopting several procedures, such as social distancing and allocating certain routes, to improve the level of services offered during this Umrah season.
Last October, Saudi Arabia begin easing Covid-19 restrictions, allowing gatherings and lifting some mask mandates for those who have received both vaccine doses. In Makkah and Madinah other rules — including a cap on visitors to Mecca’s Grand Mosque — were dropped.
Those rules were reimposed once again in the new year after the first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant was detected in Saudi Arabia.
Starting last Thursday, social distancing became mandatory at Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
People performing the Umrah pilgrimage will have to abide by these new measures while wearing masks and sticking to the hours allocated to them.
One of the new rules for Umrah visits includes limiting permits to one every 10 days.
According to a Ministry of Hajj and Umrah statement, a 10-day waiting period is now mandatory between two separate Umrah visits.
Earlier this week, the General Presidency for the affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque said it had provided additional services and manpower to manage the current Umrah pilgrimage season, by opening 58 gates for entry and exit into the Holy grounds, as well as allocating more than 4,000 workers, who will be responsible for sanitising the grounds up to 10 times per day.