MAKKAH: The suspension of Umrah in Saudi Arabia, which was implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, will be lifted in phases, Saudi authorities announced on Monday.
Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said that while public health remains the Kingdom’s top priority, his ministry is studying a three-stage plan for the gradual restoration of the pilgrimage.
During the first phase, Saudi citizens and expatriates living in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform the minor pilgrimage. However, Umrah services will operate at 40 percent of the normal capacity. This will be increased to 75 percent in the second phase, and in phase three full capacity will be restored and pilgrims from outside the Kingdom will be allowed to return.
During all three phases, the ministry said, strict health precautions will be enforced.
Benten said the ministry stands by all the people — investors and workers — involved in the sector during this time of institutional transformation. It wants, he added, to empower Umrah companies and related organizations to become strong economic entities that provide high-quality services through the I’tamarna application, which will make it easier for pilgrims to book their journeys.
Benten said more than 30 local and international companies will provide services to the pilgrims through an electronic platform that will enable the service providers to carry out the necessary follow-up while serving pilgrims. He added that Umrah companies and institutions serve more than 16 million pilgrims from the Kingdom, the region and the rest of the world.