An aerial view of the Grand Mosque on the first day of Ramadan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, April 24, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Suspension of Umrah trips remains in effect, the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah has confirmed as the kingdom is heading towards easing restrictions previously imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“This [suspension] is subjected to periodical review according to the curve of the pandemic and recommendations issued from the ad-hoc committee,” the ministry added.

In late February, Saudi Arabia halted Umrah journeys to the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina due to the coronavirus scare and as part of a string of measures aimed to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly ailment.

At the time, Saudi authorities said the suspension is temporary.

Millions of Muslims normally flock to holy sites in Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah in the months that precede and follow the annual Haj pilgrimage, which is due to begin in late July this year.

The Muslims, who cannot afford the high costs of the Haj, are often content with performing the Umrah.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia announced a phased plan easing virus-related restrictions to allow gradual return to normal life.

Starting from Sunday, all congregational prayers, including Friday prayers, will be allowed in all mosques across the country except in Mecca. As part of the easing measures, domestic air travel will also resume on Sunday when all employees will return to their workplaces.