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Web Desk
October 28, 2020

Saudi Arabia: What are the new coronavirus quarantine rules for foreign Umrah pilgrims?


Web Desk
Wed, Oct 28, 2020
Saudis and expats offer prayers for the first time after the Kingdom eased months-long COVID-19 restrictions at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 18, 2020. AFP/STR/Files

MAKKAH: An official at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Wednesday held a workshop to announce new quarantine rules for foreign pilgrims in light of the coronavirus pandemic, as the Kingdom opens the Holy Mosque to worshippers on November 1.

According to the deputy minister for Hajj and Umrah Services, Dr Amr Almaddah, foreign pilgrims would now be required to go into a three-day quarantine upon arrival into Saudi Arabia.

What comes after quarantine?

Umrah companies are responsible for educating the pilgrims, he added, noting that once their quarantine period ends, they would transport the worshippers to the nearest Miqat to put on their Ihrams and resume the rituals.

Dr Almaddah underscored that the Hajj and Umrah ministry has "allocated 10% of the hotels [operations] to isolate pilgrims suspected of being infected with the coronavirus, God forbid".

Umrah companies must apprise the foreign pilgrims of the precautionary measures that must be applied throughout the Umrah journey, he added.

The ministry, he said, has also set up legislation and various controls to protect the health of everyone — both residing in the Kingdom and those coming in to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah — and created a conducive environment for partners in the Umrah sector.

Saudi CDC monitoring coronavirus situation

The official further noted that the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) was on alert regarding the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) situation in all the countries from where the pilgrims would be coming in in order to stay abreast of required information that may be relayed to authorities ahead of Umrah arrivals.

The third phase of Umrah resumption in the Kingdom commences November 1 and it is then that the foreign pilgrims, limited to 20,000 — would be let into the Kingdom. They would be allowed to perform daily rituals on the condition of strict adherence to the social distancing measures.

Over 1.2 million Umrah permits issued

Separately, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Twitter the number of people registered on the Eatmarna app stood at 1,433,176, as of Rabiul Awwal 10, 1442 AH.

The total number of approved applications from Umrah beneficiaries were 1,226,715, as of the same date, it added.

Dr Almaddah highlighted that it was mandatory for foreign pilgrims to have full medical insurance should they develop COVID-19 symptoms or contract the virus, according to Arab News.

Accommodation; hotels and standards

Furthermore, Al Khaleej Today quoted another official as stating that the Kingdom has over "1,800 hotels and over 250,000 housing units in Makkah and these include furnished rooms and apartments".

A member of the national Hajj and Umrah committee, Muhammad Al-Qurashi, explained that hotels starting from three stars and up to five stars must ensure the highest standards of precautionary measures

Three meals a day mandatory

The hotels ranging from three to five stars must apply the highest standards of coronavirus precautionary measures during the time the foreign pilgrims stay in Saudi Arabia.

"With the start of the third phase on Sunday, around 30-40% of hotels in the central Haram region and hotels near the Grand Mosque will be operational," he said, as per the publication.

The Hajj and Umrah ministry has made it obligatory for hotels to ensure the room rent includes three meals a day for each pilgrim during the quarantine period. Moreover, open buffets at all hotels have been banned during this period.

While in quarantine, it must be made sure that no more than two individuals stay in one room and all family members must ensure social distancing of 1.5 metres (approximately 5ft).

Supervisors and guards would be stationed at each hotel to ensure no pilgrim leaves unnecessarily and to facilitate their exit.