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Muslims worshippers have been handed sterilization kits at the Grand Mosque in Mecca amid stepped-up measures to curb the COVID-19 spread. Image Credit: SPA

Cairo: Muslims performing the Umrah or minor pilgrimage have been handed sterilisation kits as Saudi Arabia has increased the numbers of worshippers having access to the Grand Mosque in Mecca amid stepped-up measures to curb the COVID-19 spread.

The General Presidency for Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques have offered bags containing sterilisation tools, prayer rugs and umbrellas to the pilgrims, Saudi media reported.

The presidency has, meanwhile, intensified sterilisation efforts for all utilities of the Grand Mosque, and repeatedly urged workers as well as pilgrims to observe preventive measures to combat COVID-19.

The capacity of the Grand Mosque has been increased to reach 50,000 Umrah pilgrims and 100,000 worshippers per day in the current holy month of Ramadan.

The number of tracks designated for encircling the Holy Kaaba in the Grand Mosque has also increased by 11 tracks to reach 25 to ensure safe distancing among pilgrims and help them perform the ritual comfortably.

Health precautions

In October, Saudi Arabia set into motion a plan for gradual resumption of the Umrah after suspension of around seven months amid stringent health precautions.

The first phase of the plan, which began on October 4, allowed 6,000 Umrah pilgrims from inside the kingdom per day into the 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.

Earlier this month, Saudi authorities announced that only “immunised” people against COVID-19 will be allowed to perform the Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque starting from Ramadan 1. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has defined the eligible “immunised” worshippers as those who have received two doses of vaccination against COVID-19; those receiving a single dose of inoculation at least 14 days in advance; and those who have recovered from the virus infection.