Saudi Arabia will gradually begin receiving Umrah pilgrimage requests from abroad for vaccinated pilgrims starting August 9 after a few years and a half not receiving overseas worshippers thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the state press agency, SPA, reported early Sunday.
With a capacity that might rise to 2 million pilgrims from 60,000 pilgrims per month, Mecca and Medina will start welcoming visitors from abroad to their mosques while maintaining Covid-19 precautionary measures.
An official within the Hajj and Umrah Ministry said domestic and overseas pilgrims will need to include authorized Covid-19 vaccination certificates alongside their Umrah request.
Vaccinated pilgrims from countries that Saudi Arabia includes on its entry-ban list will need to be institutionally quarantined upon arrival, the report added.
The Kingdom also decided to permit entry to foreign travelers fully vaccinated with either Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines, as long as they also receive a booster of either of the four vaccines approved by the dominion, consistent with the country’s e-visa portal.
“Guests who have completed two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines are going to be accepted if they need to receive a further dose of 1 of the four vaccines approved within the Kingdom,” one among the rules for travelers on the portal says. The four approved vaccines are Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
Umrah, a pilgrimage to Islam’s two holiest sites that are undertaken at any time of the year, was reopened in October for domestic worshippers.
Islam’s holiest sites’ home for the second year during a row had hosted a limited-numbered, domestic Haj pilgrimage in July.
Open to tourists
Earlier this month, the dominion opened its doors for tourists after a 17-month hiatus.
At the time, the SPA had reported that travelers, fully vaccinated with Saudi-approved jabs are going to be ready to enter the dominion “without the necessity for an institutional quarantine period”, provided they even have proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours and register their details with health authorities.
Riyadh has spent billions trying to create a tourism industry from scratch, as a part of efforts to diversify its oil-reliant economy.
The once-reclusive kingdom began issuing tourist visas for the primary time in 2019, a part of an ambitious push to revamp its global image and draw visitors.
Between September 2019 and March 2020, it issued 400,000 — just for the pandemic to crush that momentum as borders were closed.