grand mosque-1626872211524
Saudi police officer stands guard as pilgrims arrive to perform their final Tawaf in the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, on July 20, 2021. The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah halted applications for praying and performing Umrah at the Grand Mosque at the onset of the pilgrimage season earlier this month to allow pilgrims to undertake their rituals smoothly and finalise sanitization of the holy site. Image Credit: VIA REUTERS

Cairo: Applying for a permit to pray at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca will open again as of Saturday after the completion of the current Hajj rituals, according to a local media report.

Applications are to be presented via the smartphone app “Itamarnah”, Okaz newspaper reported.

However, reservations for performing Umrah or the lesser pilgrimage are still suspended, the paper said.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah halted applications for praying and performing Umrah at the Grand Mosque at the onset of the pilgrimage season earlier this month to allow pilgrims to undertake their rituals smoothly and finalise sanitization of the holy site.

Earlier this week, a Saudi official disclosed that the Umrah journeys will resume later this month.

Saudi Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Al Mashat said that Umrah will restart on the 15th of the current Islamic month of Dhu Al Hijjah corresponding to July 23.

“In the beginning, the number of the Umrah pilgrims will be 20,000 [per day]. The number will increase gradually,” he told Saudi-owned television Al Arabiya.

In October, Saudi Arabia set into motion a plan for gradual resumption of the Umrah amid stringent precautions against COVID-19.

The first phase of the plan, which began on October 4, allowed 6,000 Umrah pilgrims from inside the kingdom per day into the Grand Mosque.

The second went into effect on October 18, allowing about 40,000 worshippers and 10,000 pilgrims a day into the site.

As many as 20,000 Umrah pilgrims and 60,000 worshipers per day were allowed into the mosque according to the third phase that started in November.

Ramadan is usually a peak Umrah season. Last Ramadan, authorities increased the capacity of the Grand Mosque to reach 50,000 Umrah pilgrims and 100,000 worshippers per day.

Only “immunised” people against COVID-19 were allowed to perform the Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.