COVID-19: Children barred from Grand Mosque in Mecca

Cairo: Saudi authorities have banned children from getting access to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to perform the Umrah pilgrimage or prayers in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

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The ban is part of health rules set for worshippers during the holy month of Ramadan, which is usually a peak Umrah season.

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The Saudi Ministry of the Hajj and Umrah has pointed out that regulations ban escorting children to the Grand Mosque. The ministry said that obtaining permits to the holy site is available via the smartphone apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakklana”.

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The ministry also announced that only “immunised” people against COVID-19 are permitted to visit the mosque. It has defined the eligible “immunised” worshippers as those who have received two doses of vaccination against COVID-19; those receiving a single dose of inoculation at least 14 days in advance; and those who have recovered from the virus infection.

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Saudi authorities have increased the capacity of the Grand Mosque to reach 50,000 Umrah pilgrims and 100,000 worshippers per day currently in Ramadan.

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The number of tracks designated for encircling the Holy Kaaba has also increased by 11 tracks to reach 25 to ensure safe distancing among pilgrims and help them perform the ritual comfortably.

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In October, Saudi Arabia set into motion a plan for gradual resumption of the Umrah after suspension of around seven months amid stringent precautions against COVID-19. The first phase of the plan, which began on October 4, allowed 6,000 Umrah pilgrims from inside the kingdom per day into the mosque.

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The second went into effect on October 18, allowing about 40,000 worshippers and 10,000 pilgrims a day into the site. As many as 20,000 Umrah pilgrims and 60,000 worshipers per day were allowed into the mosque according to the third phase that started in November.

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