Saudi Arabia opens Umrah pilgrimage to vaccinated foreigners

Aug 8, 2021: Saudi Arabia says it will start receiving applications for Umrah pilgrimage from foreigners who have been vaccinated against the corona virus from August 9 this year.

The announcement on state media on Sunday morning came almost 18 months after the country closed its borders to foreign visitors due to the corona virus pandemic.

The Saudi Press Agency said that ministry officials that coordinate foreign pilgrims would “start receiving Umrah applications from around the world” from Monday.

The report said that initially 60,000 Umrah pilgrims would be allowed every month, but this number would be gradually increased to 2 million per month. He said that the expatriates would have to include the authorized COVID-19 vaccination certificate along with their Umrah application.

He added that visitors to the vaccine from any of Saudi Arabia’s listed countries would be subject to institutional quarantine upon arrival.

Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, two of Islam’s holiest sites, and can be performed at any time of the year. This is different from the Hajj which takes place once a year.

The corona virus pandemic disrupted both Umrah and Hajj, which are usually important sources of income from religious tourism for the kingdom.

Together, the country earns about $12bn a year under normal circumstances. Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah after the start of the pandemic, but reopened it in October last year for vaccinated domestic worshipers.

The Hajj took place this year and in July last year, although it was only open to a limited number of domestic worshipers. In all, about 5,532,000 cases of corona virus and more than 8,300 deaths have been recorded in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government has since stepped up its nationwide vaccination campaign as it moves to rehabilitate areas such as tourism and other sectors affected by the pandemic, such as sports competitions and recreational activities.

Vaccination is mandatory for the use of public and private institutions, including educational institutions and recreational areas, as well as for using public transport.

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