Saudi Arabia will gradually lift a coronavirus related ban for Umrah pilgrimage starting early next month, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported early today.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia will gradually resume the year-round umrah pilgrimage from 4 October.
“An official source at the Ministry of Interior affirms the Kingdom’s keenness to enable the pilgrims from inside and outside the Kingdom to perform the rituals in a safe and healthy manner fulfilling the preventative requirements and spatial distancing in order to ensure human safety,” SPA said on Twitter in English.
The Umrah, which refers to the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah that can be undertaken at any time of year, attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year.
Saudi Arabia suspended the Umrah in March and scaled back the annual Hajj over fears that the coronavirus could spread to Islam’s holiest cities.
Pilgrimage is a big business for Saudi Arabia and the backbone of plans to expand visitor numbers under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s ambitious economic reform agenda.
In 2019, around 19 million pilgrims attended Umrah while Hajj drew 2.6 million. The crown prince aims to increase capacity to 30 million pilgrims annually and generate 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) of revenues by 2030.