First pilgrims arrive at Grand Mosque after six-month curb

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The first group of pilgrims are checked for signs of coronavirus as they arrive in Jeddah on Saturday, before proceeding to Makkah. (Supplied)
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The first group of pilgrims are checked for signs of coronavirus as they arrive in Jeddah on Saturday, before proceeding to Makkah. (Supplied)
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The first group of pilgrims are checked for signs of coronavirus as they arrive in Jeddah on Saturday, before proceeding to Makkah. (Supplied)
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Pilgrims board a bus at the airport in Jeddah on Saturday, on their way to Makkah. (Supplied)
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Makkah’s Grand Mosque will see the return of Umrah pilgrims on Sunday for the first time since the pilgrimage was temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). (File/SPA)
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Makkah’s Grand Mosque will see the return of Umrah pilgrims on Sunday for the first time since the pilgrimage was temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). (File/SPA)
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Makkah’s Grand Mosque will see the return of Umrah pilgrims on Sunday for the first time since the pilgrimage was temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). (File/SPA)
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Makkah’s Grand Mosque will see the return of Umrah pilgrims on Sunday for the first time since the pilgrimage was temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). (File/SPA)
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Updated 04 October 2020

First pilgrims arrive at Grand Mosque after six-month curb

  • About 1,000 employees have been trained to monitor the rituals

JEDDAH: After more than six months, with the exception of Hajj, Makkah’s Grand Mosque has opened its doors to the first group of pilgrims performing Umrah in a welcome sign of a new beginning.
More than 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide will rejoice as the first lucky Umrah pilgrims enter the mosque at 6 a.m. on Sunday after applying through the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s Eatmarna app.

Saudi Arabia took drastic measures to combat the pandemic and suspended the Umrah pilgrimage and prayers in mosques in mid-March. The Kingdom also halted international flights and implemented a lockdown to prevent virus cases reaching unprecedented levels.

To accommodate a quota of 6,000 pilgrims per day, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has prepared five meeting points, including the Al-Gaza, Ajyad and Al-Shasha sites, where pilgrims will meet and join health professionals on buses to the Grand Mosque.

To welcome the first arrivals, thermal cameras will be placed at the entrances and inside halls of the Grand Mosque to monitor body temperature spikes and issue alerts if necessary.

The plan was devised at the start of the pandemic to ensure visitor safety and allow a rapid response to potential virus cases.

The General Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, in cooperation with other authorities, has completed preparations to receive the pilgrims with strict precautionary and preventive measures. About 1,000 employees have been trained to monitor the rituals of Umrah in the Grand Mosque. The mosque will be cleaned 10 times a day between each group’s presence. Further cleaning of high-traffic areas will also be conducted, including fountains, carpets and bathrooms. Escalators leading to the top floors have also been equipped with cleaning devices, while hand-washing devices have been placed at the mosque’s entrances.

FASTFACT

The first phase of Umrah will include 6,000 pilgrims a day. The second phase is set to start two weeks later on Oct. 18 and will involve about 15,000 to 40,000 pilgrims daily, while in the third phase, 20,000 to 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the ritual each day, including pilgrims from abroad.

Air-conditioning systems have also been equipped with ultraviolet sanitizing technology, while crews will maintain an air filter cleaning schedule nine times a day in three different stages.

The presidency has launched several initiatives, including “Kammamat” (face coverings), to ensure pilgrim safety.

With a capacity for 2.5 million pilgrims, the circumambulation area (Mataf) around the Kaaba was chosen for Umrah pilgrims to perform rituals. Designated pathways, similar to the Hajj pilgrimage in August, have been introduced for ease of access.

The president of the General Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, referred to the royal approval of King Salman, which allowed pilgrims to perform Umrah in the Grand Mosque and visit the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque while complying with preventive measures.

Al-Sudais said the royal approval reflects the Saudi leadership’s keenness to ensure the safety of the holy mosque’s visitors and comes in response to Muslims’ desire to perform Umrah.


Saudi health minister promises to procure tested COVID-19 vaccine

Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2020

Saudi health minister promises to procure tested COVID-19 vaccine

JEDDAH: Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah on Monday said the Kingdom will procure vaccine for the novel coronavirus once it is confirmed to be safe and effective.

He said research on the vaccine is underway in a number of countries and the Saudi health authorities are following the developments.
The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continues to decline in the Kingdom with the recovery rate from the illness rising to 96 percent. The minister attributed the decline on the “commitment to health precautions.”
“I also thank my fellow health practitioners for their wonderful efforts,” Al-Rabiah said.
Commenting on the second and stronger wave of COVID-19 in some countries, he said it was due to a lack of “commitment to social distancing” and failure to wear masks and taking other precautions.
He ruled out any leniency on part of the government in its fight against the virus. The minister said it is necessary to abide by precautionary measures to keep the virus at bay.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia recorded 381 new infections on Monday.

• With 16 new fatalities, the virus-related death toll has risen to 5,201.

“We (all) are in one boat, and the failure of some affects everyone, so we must work together” to check the spread of the virus.
He also advised people who show COVID-19 symptoms to visit Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
“Appointments can be made through the ministry’s Sehaty app, and anyone who has any questions or wants to consult a doctor can call 937,” the minister said.
Saudi Arabia recorded 381 new infections on Monday. The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 348,583 since the beginning of the outbreak in the Kingdom.
The Health Ministry said 16 more people died due to complications caused by the virus raising the death toll to 5,201. The ministry also reported 357 new recoveries. The total number of recovered cases has now increased to 328,895.