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Worshippers performing the Fajr prayer in a Mecca mosque. Image Credit:

Cairo: Thousands of worshippers early Sunday flocked to mosques in the Saudi holy city of Mecca on the first day of their reopening after three-month closure as the kingdom has further loosened restrictions imposed due to the new coronavirus.

Pictures posted by the Mecca region authorities showed worshippers performing the Fajr prayer inside mosques amid strict health measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

They include the use of personal prayer rugs, keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between worshippers, performing the ritual ablution at home, and wearing a protective face mask. Worshippers are also advised to avoid handshakes, use apps on their smartphones to read the Holy Quran or use their personal copies of the sacred book.

The branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Mecca had readied the city’s nearly 1,560 mosques for reopening by putting in place precautions and ensuring all-out sterilisation of the worship places.

On May 31, mosques reopened across Saudi Arabia, except in Mecca, for congregation prayers as part of a phased plan for gradual return to normal.

Starting from Sunday, a months-long curfew was fully lifted across Saudi Arabia and all economic activities were allowed to resume. However, curbs on international air travel, the Umrah journeys and gatherings of over 50 persons remain as part of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.