Saudi ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab health ministers

Muslim pilgrims pray near the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque during Umrah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 24, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 28 February 2020

Saudi ban on Umrah pilgrims backed by OIC, Arab health ministers

  • The Egyptian minister of religious endowments also gave his support to the Saudi move
  • The common practice of foreign pilgrims visiting the Prophet’s Mosque before or after the completion of rituals in Makkah, has also been halted

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims, imposed as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the killer coronavirus, was on Thursday backed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The OIC’s General Secretariat stressed its full support for the Kingdom’s preventive measures aimed at protecting its citizens and worshippers intending to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the decision to suspend entry to the country for Umrah pilgrims was made to ensure public safety and stop the deadly virus, known as Covid-19, from spreading.
The common practice of foreign pilgrims visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before or after the completion of their religious duties in Makkah, had also been halted, the ministry added.
Approving the move, the OIC said: “The Kingdom’s decision to ban the entry of pilgrims temporarily will help preserve their safety. It comes in line with the adopted international standards and supports the efforts of states and international organizations, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO).”
The OIC’s view was on Thursday echoed by the Council of Arab Health Ministers at the end of its 53rd session being held at the Arab League’s headquarters.
Council members highlighted the importance of “boosting cooperation between Arab states to implement joint measures preventing the transmission of Covid-19 and supporting the affected states when discovering new cases.”
The health ministers also emphasized the necessity of making the most of the adoption of risk assessment systems and approaches for dealing with the virus outbreak among Arab states.
The council commended measures already taken by Arab countries, in accordance with WHO guidelines, to respond, prevent and fight the spread of the coronavirus. It pointed out the importance of promoting communication, the exchange of information, and continuous coordination between Arab League member states and their relevant health bodies and sectors.
However, chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s committee on hotels, Abdullah Filali, warned of tough times ahead for the holy city’s accommodation sector.
He told Arab News that with more than 1,300 hotels, Makkah was heading toward a difficult season with high financial losses if the Umrah ban continued and was extended until Ramadan.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Sheikh Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, gave his support to the Saudi move. “The decision to ban Umrah visas is justified, as it intends to preserve the lives of pilgrims from a certain doom. The Saudi foreign ministry said that this measure is temporary and will be continuously re-evaluated,” he said.
“We all know that crowded places are more vulnerable to the spread of the virus, which was confirmed by the WHO’s reports. We ask Allah to save all humanity and protect Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world against all harm,” the minister added.
Sheikh Dr. Khalid Al-Halibi, director of the House of Expertise for Research and Social Studies, said: “We support our government’s decision which aims to preserve the lives and the well-being of the people. It is a necessary preventive measure that was appreciated by the professionals.”
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques announced its readiness to deal with any epidemic, saying it would provide all necessary information to pilgrims and had doubled cleaning schedules for courtyards and corridors at the Two Holy Mosques.
Highly qualified cadres used the latest cleaning and sterilization tools, said Jaber Widaani, director of the mosques’ department of disinfection and carpets, noting that 13,500 prayer rugs were swept and fragranced on a daily basis.
The presidency added that it was raising media awareness in all languages and via information screens to pass on the latest medical instructions and emergency developments.
 


Saudi Arabia details travel exemptions

These must provide proof of residency in the country to which they wish to travel. (SPA)
Updated 27 September 2020

Saudi Arabia details travel exemptions

  • In the cases of the death of a spouse, parent, or child abroad, the directorate requires the submission of a death certificate and proof of relationship

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports on Saturday announced requirements for the issue of travel permits for groups exempt from coronavirus travel restrictions. Travel permits will be issued through the Absher e-services platform.
The first group exempt from travel restrictions includes government officials, civilians and members of the military assigned official missions.
This group can obtain travel permits if the official mission cannot be performed remotely and has a deadline that cannot be postponed, provided participation is kept to a minimum.
Documents required for the first group include an official letter from the entity’s senior official, in addition to the names of those who wish to travel and their mission, its location, duration and evidence that the previous conditions are met.
The second group includes citizens with humanitarian cases, especially family reunification, or the death of a spouse, parent or child abroad.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The first group exempt from travel restrictions includes government officials, civilians and members of the military assigned official missions.

• The second group includes citizens with humanitarian cases, especially family reunification, or the death of a spouse, parent or child abroad.

• The third group includes citizens living outside the Kingdom and their dependents.

Citizens who wish to be reunited with their families abroad must provide proof of relationship (spouse, parent, etc.) for the family member residing abroad, proof of residency in the country to which the other party wishes to travel, and proof of the children’s study location abroad if there are children of school age. The last should be certified by the Ministry of Education or one of the Kingdom’s representations in the destination country.
In the cases of the death of a spouse, parent, or child abroad, the directorate requires the submission of a death certificate and proof of relationship.
The third group includes citizens living outside the Kingdom and their dependents. These must provide proof of residency in the country to which they wish to travel (a document or an instrument that they own a property or have a valid lease contract prior to the issuance of these measures).
They must also submit a valid residence card (permanent or semi-permanent) in the country to which the travel is requested and proof that the applicant had spent at least six months in the destination country during the past three years.