The first group of pilgrims, allowed in the mosque compound by appointment, practice social distancing, as they perform Umrah in the Grand Mosque, after Saudi authorities ease coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 3, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Vaccinated worshippers must obtain permits beforehand to be allowed into the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca as part of efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a Saudi newspaper.

The news portal Sabq quoted “well-informed sources” as denying reports that vaccinated worshippers can enter the Grand Mosque without a permit.

“No entry to the mosque is allowed without obtaining a permit for Umrah or praying with an appointment via the apps Tawakklana or Eatmarna with the aim of preventing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting health of worshippers and the Umrah pilgrims,” one source said.

Last week, a Saudi official disclosed that there will be no cap on the numbers of Umrah pilgrims in the Umrah season in the new Islamic lunar year expected to begin on Monday in line with health precautions against COVID-19.

Late last month, Umrah or the lesser pilgrimage resumed for domestic pilgrims after the end of the Hajj rituals. Umrah trips for Muslims from abroad is due to restart on Tuesday.

In October, Saudi Arabia set into motion a plan for gradual resumption of the Umrah after a halt of around seven months 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.