islam-3782623_1920 Umrah
Eid Prayer at Kaaba. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced a three-phase Umrah plan to maintain the comfort and safety of pilgrims and ensure smooth and peaceful performance of Umrah rituals.

Pilgrims who wish to perform Umrah pilgrimage must wait two weeks before booking another date for Umrah, while the Eatmarna app will soon be launched on Android, as it is already available on Apple smartphones. “Pilgrims can perform Umrah twice, however they must wait 14 days before performing Umrah for the second time. “This rule has been set to give everyone a chance to perform Umrah in line with coronavirus –related precautionary measures,” Dr. Amr Al Maddah, the ministry’s chief planning and strategy officer, said.

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The ministry is studying the available spots that can be used by pilgrims to perform Umrah while maintaining social distancing and abiding by health protocols. Al Maddah said 35,000 requests have registered so far to perform Umrah rituals. Pilgrims will start performing Umrah on October 4, as the ministry has rolled out a three-phase Umrah plan this year, in line with coronavirus preventive measures and health protocols.

In the first phase, pilgrims will perform Umrah at six different times a day, giving each pilgrim three hours. Al Maddah noted that pilgrims will not be allowed to perform Umrah between the sunset and evening prayers, and, instead, this period will be allocated to cleaning and disinfecting. “Pilgrims will start performing Umrah at midnight, with the place disinfected before the arrival of each group.”

Each group will be accompanied by supervisors who will ensure pilgrims keep social distancing, and follow instructions and a pre-scheduled timeline. Isolation rooms will be provided at the central area’s hotels to handle any potential cases. The second phase, scheduled to start two weeks later, will be preceded by a comprehensive assessment of the first phase to address any shortcomings.

“The Kingdom is adopting extra vigilance during the Haj and Umrah seasons to protect Muslims around the world, and allow them to smoothly and peacefully perform their pilgrimage,” Al Maddah said. Adding  “The three-phase plan will provide feedback on pilgrims’ commitment to protocols and adjustment to current circumstances.”

He said that the app was supposed to be launched earlier, but was delayed due to Android policies. The app was presented to both Apple and Android at the same time, but Apple completed the procedures earlier, he added.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, Sheikh Dr. Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz Al Al-Sheikh, announced the ministry’s readiness to receive Umrah performers in all Miqats in accordance with approved health protocols. He commended leadership efforts to confront the pandemic, in addition to the government sector role in ensuring the safety of citizens, residents and Umrah performers.