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Saudi Arabia to allow only immunised pilgrims to Mecca

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Saudi Arabia authorities said Monday only people immunized against Covid-19 will be allowed to perform the year-round umrah pilgrimage from the start of Ramadan, the holy fasting month for Muslims.

The Hajj ministry said in a statement that "only those who are immunized" against coronavirus will be allowed to perform Umra prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca from the start of Ramadan.

This includes those who have received the required two doses of vaccine and those who have received a single dose for at least 14 days.

Ramadan period brings a large number of worshippers from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries to Mecca.

The small-scale pilgrimage, suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, resumed at intervals at the beginning of October though with precautionary measures.

Initially, only 6,000 Saudis and foreign residents in Saudi Arabia were allowed each day for the Umra, which can be undertaken throughout the year unlike the hajj, which takes place once a year.

The number then rose to 15,000 per day for the Umra while 40,000 worshippers were admitted to the Grand Mosque for daily prayers.

Worshippers from abroad were allowed from 1 November, but the Ministry of Health selects countries on the basis of the evolution of the pandemic.

More than 390,000 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the country, including more than 6,700 deaths, and more than 5 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine out of a population of 34 million.