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Saudi Arabia Makes COVID-19 Vaccination Prerequisite for Umrah

by Newsweek Pakistan

Joe Raedle-Getty Images North America—AFP

Gulf kingdom says unvaccinated people will not be allowed entry into either the Grand Mosque or the Prophet’s Mosque

Saudi Arabia’s Haj and Umrah Ministry on Monday announced that the Gulf kingdom—from the first of the upcoming month of Ramzan—would only allow entry for Umrah to pilgrims who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a statement, authorities said that three categories of people would be considered immunized and eligible for the pilgrimage—those who had received two doses of a vaccine; those administered their first dose at least 14 days prior to applying for an entry permit; and those who had recovered from the infection. People who fall into one of these three categories would be granted permits to perform Umrah, as well as to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, it added.

The same restrictions also apply to anyone seeking entry into the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina.

The statement did not clarify how long the restrictions would last, or whether it would be extended to the annual Haj pilgrimage.

Last month, the Saudi government announced that no iftar gatherings or aitekaf would be permitted at either the Grand Mosque or the Prophet’s Mosque during Ramzan to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Under new restrictions, the kingdom has already suspended international flights until May 17—after Eidul Fitr—preventing foreign visitors from being able to perform Umrah during the fasting month.

Saudi Arabia has thus far reported over 393,000 coronavirus infections and 6,700 deaths from COVID-19. The kingdom’s vaccination drive is ongoing, with authorities saying that around 5 million doses have been administered in a country of 34 million.

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