Saudi Arabia

Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia reveals plans for Umrah when it resumes in October

Web report/Riyadh
Filed on September 29, 2020
saudi arabia, umrah, haj, coronavirus, covid-19

(Saudi Ministry of Media)

Saudi Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr Mohammed Saleh Benten said that "the ministry is here to help the pilgrim."

The resumption of Umrah in Saudi Arabia will take place in three phases, each one with a certain capacity and under constant supervision, similar to the standards enforced during the Haj pilgrimage in August.

The Ministry of Interior last week announced the gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques with a limited number of pilgrims, starting from October 4. In the first phase of the resumption, a total of 6,000 pilgrims will be allowed a day to perform the ritual in 12 groups, each consisting of 500 pilgrims

Saudi Minister of Haj and Umrah Dr Mohammed Saleh Benten said that "the ministry is here to help the pilgrim."

According to Arab News, he also quashed rumours about the Kingdom imposing any fees to book time slots.

Arab News said the minister said that to meet the needs of pilgrims, every step is computerised using AI with the Ministry of Haj and Umrah launching a new Umrah application, Eatmarna, on Sunday. This will help to implement health standards amid the Covid-19 pandemic, making it easier for pilgrims to book their Umrah provided the authorities clear them to do so.

As many as 16,000 Saudis and expatriates have registered for the performance of the Umrah pilgrimage in the first few hours after launching of the Umrah app on Sunday, according to the Makkah emirate. 

The registration of Umrah pilgrims for the first 10 days has been completed, it said in a statement on its Twitter account.

Users downloading the app must also ensure they are registered with the Ministry of Health's Tawakkalna app to check on the user's health status and eligibility to perform Umrah rituals.

In an interview with Saudi National TV's Al Rased programme, Dr Benten announced that the first phase will allow 6,000 pilgrims daily and will be divided into 12 groups across 24 hours.

This is while maintaining social-distancing measures with the aid of the authorities to ensure that they receive the same care provided to pilgrims performing the Haj pilgrimage, adding that it will be "more accurate, more precise with more precautionary measures in place," he said.

"We've also designated the age groups be between 18-65 years old for those who are able to. Those who can't will have wheelchairs ready for them to perform Tawaf and Saee, but the flow of the Tawaf (the act of going around the Kaaba seven times) will be consistent with the same speed and flow," said the minister.

"We have an accurate implementation plan in place to facilitate the flow of residents from the 17th of Safar (Oct. 4) to perform the Umrah ritual," Benten added.

The minister said that the pilgrims would have a specific time period in which to perform the rituals.

"Pilgrims who will be arriving from outside Makkah, who booked hotels and residences, will be asked to meet at the check points 15 minutes before their scheduled departures to the Grand Mosque where they will be met by guides and health specialists to perform the rituals in a very specific time period within their booked time slots," the minster said.  

Children will be permitted to accompany their parents provided they are added to the Tawakkalna app under the users' dependents. Users may also add dependents to accompany them to perform the Umrah.

Cars will not be allowed to park inside the central zone around the Grand Mosque with the exception of those who live in the area. Pilgrims who are arriving by car but without a hotel booking will be able to accompany the designated group assigned to the time slot of choice by meeting them at the checkpoint and be transported by buses.

Pilgrims arriving from overseas will be allowed to enter the Kingdom in the third phase of the plan with the Ministry of Health deciding which nationalities will be allowed in the Kingdom.

"Pilgrims arriving from abroad will receive the same treatment as the residents of Saudi Arabia. They'll be able to book a time slot just as well and arrive knowing full well that they will be taken care of from arrival to departure," the minister said.

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