Worshippers were seen praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
MAKKAH, SAUDI ARABIA — The Saudi government has eased the restriction of social distancing during namaz (prayers) in and around the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah from Sunday, according to official Saudi Press Agency.
Worshippers were seen praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. Floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Makkah Grand Mosque, which houses Kaabah, are removed by the workers, reports AFP.
“This is in line with the decision to ease precautionary measures and to allow pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque at full capacity,” reported the official Saudi Press Agency.
Pictures and footage on Sunday morning showed people praying side by side, making straight rows of worshippers during prayers, for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold last year.
However, while social distancing measures were lifted, the authorities said visitors must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds and also holy Kaabah has been cordoned off and out reach of worshippers.
The Covid-19 pandemic had hugely disrupted Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages pilgrimages, which are also key revenue earners for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Other than pilgrims all other tourists were also restricted to visit Saudi Arabia for the fear of spreading virus.
In August this year, Saudi Arabia had announced that it will begin accepting vaccinated foreigners wanting to make the Umrah pilgrimage as the Umrah can be undertaken at any time and usually draws millions from around the globe.
The kingdom is slowly opening up, and has also started welcoming vaccinated foreign tourists since August 1.