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Rows of worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on December 30, 2021, following the imposition of new restrictions due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Image Credit: AFP

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia on Thursday reimposed social distancing measures at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, after recording the highest number of infections in months.

Workers have returned floor markings removed on October 17 to guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque - which is built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

Saudi authorities said they will reimpose “social distancing requirements between worshippers and pilgrims” at the Grand Mosque, without specifying whether a capacity has been set.

Earlier, the kingdom had said social distancing and masks were again required in both indoor and outdoor venues.

The kingdom of approximately 34 million people has so far recorded more than 554,000 COVID-19 cases, including 8,874 deaths, the highest number of fatalities among the Gulf countries.

On Wednesday, Saudi recorded 744 cases, the highest number since mid-August.

There are 43 critical cases of COVID-19 in the country, the ministry of health said, SPA reported.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health announced that individuals in Saudi Arabia can now take the third dose, or booster shot, of the COVID-19 vaccine three months after taking the second dose.

The Kingdom’s Public Health Authority (Weqaya) also urged citizens and residents to avoid “unnecessary” travel outside the country amid rising COVID-19 cases and the new omicron variant.

The pandemic hugely disrupted Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in some $12 billion annually.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar - have been recording their highest numbers of new cases in months.