Pilgrims undertaking Umrah during Ramadan must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or otherwise immune, Saudi Arabia announced on Monday, reversing a statement that pilgrims will not need to be inoculated.
Permits to perform Umrah will be granted to applicants who can demonstrate immunity from the virus.
This includes having had two doses of vaccine, having received one dose at least 14 days prior to arrival, or having recovered from the virus, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry told the Saudi state news agency.
Scientific studies suggested that those who were infected can be protected from reinfection for a limited period of time. The strength of the immune response and the length of time that the protection lasts can vary.
Pilgrims looking to perform Umrah this year must use either the Umrah or Tawakolna mobile apps to submit their coronavirus documents.
Reservations can also be made through these apps to ensure capacity is not exceeded.
The ministry said only these two apps can be used and told pilgrims to avoid unauthorised or fake websites.
Those working in the Hajj and Umrah sectors must be vaccinated before the start of Ramadan, the ministry previously said.
Employees who are not vaccinated must provide a negative PCR test result every seven days, in line with broader rules brought in across the kingdom’s hospitality and services industries.
Authorities said they will intensify inspections during the holy month to ensure that the public is complying with social distancing measures.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia directed all mosques across the country to suspend Iftar, Suhoor and I'tikaf, in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Minister of Islamic Affairs Abdullatif Al Sheikh said that the often large gatherings to break fast during the holy month will not be taking place inside mosques this year.
The preventative and precautionary measures are being taken to prevent further outbreaks of the virus, he said.
Saudi Arabia reported 695 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, with seven deaths and 489 recoveries.