RIYADH (Dispatches) – Saudi Arabia allowed its citizens and residents inside the kingdom on Sunday to perform daily prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, for the first time in seven months.
Sunday also marked the start of the second phase of the gradual return of citizens and residents to performing the Umrah – an Islamic pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina undertaken any time of the year – expanding the capacity to 75 percent.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia resumed allowing citizens and residents to perform the Umrah at Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, after a seven-month pause due to coronavirus concerns.
With the start of phase one on October 4, Saudi Arabia had allowed 6,000 citizens and residents of the kingdom to perform Umrah daily, representing 30 percent of a revised maximum capacity of 20,000 pilgrims allowed into the Grand Mosque every day under new precautionary health measures.
Starting November 1, the kingdom will allow visitors from specific countries deemed safe to perform Umrah at 100 percent of the revised capacity, which would remain in place until the danger posed by the coronavirus had passed, Saudi news agency SPA reported last month.
Mosques Reopen in- Gaza
Meanwhile, Palestinian authorities reopened mosques in the Gaza Strip on Sunday after weeks of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs, however, decided to keep mosques closed in areas categorized as "red zones,” where high numbers of virus infections were recorded.
A ministry statement said dozens of mosques were disinfected before the reopening.
In August, the ministry shut all mosques across the Palestinian territory following the detection of virus cases in the enclave.
Mosques, however, were partially reopened in Oct. 4 in some areas in the strip.
The ministry said all preventive measures, including wearing masks, will be observed by worshippers while performing prayers at mosques.