Saudi Arabia reportedly suspends Umrah pilgrimage until March 31, 2021

5 months ago Web Desk 0

Saudi Arabia has reportedly suspended Umrah pilgrimage until March 31, 2021 over fears that a British strain of coronavirus could spread to Islam’s holiest cities.


Citing Saudi Interior Ministry, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on January 8 that citizens of Saudi Arabia will be allowed to travel internationally, and return, from March 31 onwards.


Saudi Arabia’s ban on international flights will also be fully lifted, meaning all land, sea and air borders will be opened in full on March 31, too – provided that all coronavirus-related precautionary measures are adhered to.


An official source at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior declared the opening of the borders will be in accordance with a set of procedures, precautions and necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom.


Currently, only certain categories of citizens, including businessmen, patients requiring treatment outside the Kingdom, students, and those with humane cases for leaving, can exit and return.


Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Benten told Al Arabiya on January 5 that Muslims who want to perform the Umrah pilgrimage are advised to receive the coronavirus vaccine beforehand.


Sadullo Qurbonov, top manager of Rasoulsokhtmon Company, which is engaged in sending local Muslims to ‘minor pilgrimage’, told Asia-Plus on Friday (January 15) that sending Tajik Muslims to Saudi Arabia for Umrah pilgrimage has been suspended because of a new decision of the Saudi authorities.


Meanwhile, the Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA) under the Government of Tajikistan says they have not yet receive an official notice of suspending Umrah pilgrimage.


Recall, media reports said in March last year that Saudi Arabia suspended year-round Umrah pilgrimage on March 4, 2020 to stop coronavirus spreading to holy Islamic sites. The Saudi authorities later noted that they are ready to accept Umrah pilgrims from abroad beginning on November 1.


The Umrah – which, unlike the Hajj, can be undertaken at any time of year – draws millions of Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia every year.


According to data from the Committee on Religious Affairs under the Government of Tajikistan, 3,273 Tajik Muslims performed Umrah pilgrimage in 2019.


Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hajj pilgrimage last year was limited to those living in Saudi Arabia, and pilgrims from abroad were not accepted.


The holy sites, which draw millions of pilgrims every year, are a key revenue earner for Saudi Arabia.


Source: Asia Plus