Saudi authorities have also confirmed that vaccinated foreign pilgrims are now eligible for Umrah permits.
Saudi Arabia will begin accepting vaccinated foreigners for the Umrah pilgrimage, authorities confirmed on Sunday.
From Monday, the kingdom will begin “gradually receiving Umrah requests from various countries”, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Before Sunday’s announcement, only vaccinated pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia were eligible for Umrah permits.
Similarly in July, only around 60,000 vaccinated residents of the kingdom were able to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage for the second year running.
Now, Saudi Arabia will allow 60,000 pilgrims to perform the lesser Umrah pilgrimage each month, and will gradually increase that to reach two million worshippers per month.
Foreign pilgrims must be vaccinated with a Covid-19 vaccine recognised by the Saudi government. These include Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
According to Deputy Hajj Minister Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, foreign pilgrims must also agree to undergo quarantine if necessary.
Mashat also said the kingdom is planning on determining the destinations from which pilgrims can come, as well as their numbers, on a “periodic basis according to the classification of preventive measures” in those nations.
While Hajj is mandatory for those who can afford it, Umrah is a voluntary minor pilgrimage that Muslims can perform at any time of the year. In February of 2020, it was suspended over fears of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.
The pandemic hugely disrupted both Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages – a key source of revenue for the kingdom which rakes in a combined $12 billion every year. Muslims around the world usually save money for years in order to take part in these pilgrimages.
The kingdom opened up to vaccinated foreign tourists on 1 August after months of restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.