Grand Mosque opens at full capacity as Saudi Arabia relaxes Covid-19 measures

Kingdom removes requirement to wear masks in open spaces while observing social distancing rules

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque in Makkah has started receiving pilgrims at full capacity on Sunday, with workers removing social distancing stickers around the mosque.

The kingdom removed the requirement to wears masks and observe social distancing in open spaces, after a decline in the number of coronavirus infections, the official Saudi press agency (SPA) reported.

The Under-Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque, Dr Saad bin Mohammed Al Muhaimid, said that a plan has been implemented for the mosque to operate at full capacity whilst ensuring the safety of all.

Pilgrims will still be required to wear face masks and make reservations to perform Umrah and prayers through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna applications, to verify their immunity status at the entrances of the two holy mosques.

So far, more than 20.6 million of the country's 34.8 million population have been vaccinated.

"This is great news," said Naushad Mohammed, a British citizen living in the kingdom.

"Saudi Arabia has done an impressive and tremendous job in taking care of its people, be it residents or citizens during the pandemic. We were all given free medical care and vaccines and are really lucky to have been here during the pandemic. I am glad we are turning a new chapter and hope the world can go back to normal."

"Starting today, the Ministry of Sports facilities will receive sports fans at their full capacity," state media reported. Cafes, malls, wedding halls, cinemas, and restaurants will also host guests at full capacity without social distancing.

Arwa Bashaen, a Saudi citizen, said: "Honestly I am so relieved to hear that we can finally resume our daily lives without the use of masks and social distancing. We haven't been able to host a wedding in the family because we wanted all our loved ones to be there. This has just made our family so happy."

Parents are hoping schools in the kingdom will allow primary school pupils to join classes starting next week.

"Since everything is open, I hope the same applies to schools too," said Ayesha Abdullah, a Saudi citizen living in Jeddah.

"So far, only high schools are taking children back. I hope my children, aged 4 and 6 can resume classes in school starting next week as per what we were told."

Vaccine rules

Only pupils with both doses of a vaccine were allowed to go back to classrooms in August, after schools shut down last year because of the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia reopened its borders to travellers in May this year. Only adults who have received both doses of a vaccine, or one dose 14 days before the date of departure, are allowed to travel outside the country. In August, authorities allowed vaccinated tourists into the country without the need for quarantine.

Travellers must have had two doses of vaccines approved by the kingdom, which include those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

Those inoculated with Sinopharm or Sinovac shots, which are also approved, can enter Saudi Arabia if they have also had a booster dose of another approved vaccine.

So far, 44.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia recorded three deaths and 45 new cases of coronavirus, Spa reported on Saturday. The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 536,900.

Over 44.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date. The kingdom has approved Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines for use.

Updated: October 17th 2021, 2:20 PM
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