The Borneo Post (Sabah)

‘Immunised’ Muslim pilgrims in Mecca as Ramadan begins

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MECCA, Saudi Arabia: Pilgrims immunised against Covid19 circled Islam’s holiest site in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca city Tuesday as they performed the year-round umrah pilgrimage on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Mask-clad worshipper­s entered Mecca’s Grand Mosque in batches to perform the ritual of circling the sacred Kaaba, a cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray, along socially distanced paths.

Only immunised pilgrims are eligible for permits to perform the pilgrimage and to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque during Ramadan, the hajj and umrah ministry announced earlier this month.

According to the ministry, three categories of people are considered “immunised” -- those who have received two doses of coronaviru­s vaccine, those administer­ed a single dose at least 14 days prior, and people who have recovered from the infection.

The policy has effectivel­y raised the Grand Mosque’s capacity during Ramadan to accommodat­e 50,000 umrah pilgrims and 100,000 worshipper­s per day, according to state media.

It is unclear whether the policy, which comes amid an uptick in coronaviru­s infections in the kingdom, would be extended to the annual hajj pilgrimage later this year.

In late July last year, the kingdom hosted a downsized hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Only up to 10,000 Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia itself were allowed to take part, a far cry from the 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who participat­ed in 2019.

Saudi Arabia has reported more than 400,000 coronaviru­s infections and 6,700 deaths from Covid-19.

 ?? — AFP photo ?? Muslim worshipper­s perform the evening Tarawih prayer during the fasting month of Ramadan around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca.
— AFP photo Muslim worshipper­s perform the evening Tarawih prayer during the fasting month of Ramadan around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca.

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