Saudi Arabia to reopen borders for vaccinated umrah pilgrims – News Vibe24

    Saudi Arabia to reopen borders for vaccinated umrah pilgrims - Times of India
    RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will start receiving vaccinated foreign pilgrims wishing to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca, state media reported on Sunday, about 18 months after the border closure caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
    Authorities in charge of coordinating foreign pilgrims will begin “gradually receiving requests from Umrah from around the world” on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
    The umrah is a pilgrimage that can take place at any time – unlike the hajj, which takes place once a year – and usually gathers millions from all over the world every year.
    The Covid-19 pandemic has severely disrupted both pilgrimages, which are usually key revenues for the kingdom – at normal times, raising about $ 12 billion (€ 10.3 billion) a year.
    Prior to Sunday’s announcement, only vaccinated pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia were eligible for umrah permits, although the hajj has been in reduced form since the beginning of the pandemic.
    Any foreign pilgrim must be immunized with a vaccine recognized by Saudi Arabia and agree to be quarantined, the SPA report said, citing Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat.
    Riyadh has spent billions trying to build a tourism industry from scratch as part of its efforts to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
    The once isolated kingdom began issuing tourist visas for the first time in 2019 as part of an ambitious push to renew its global image and attract visitors.
    Between September 2019 and March 2020, it issued 400,000 of them – just to break this pandemic dynamic as the borders were closed.
    The government has stepped up a national vaccination effort as it revives tourism and other areas affected by the pandemic, such as sports and recreation.
    Vaccination is mandatory for anyone wishing to enter public and private institutions, including educational institutions and places of entertainment, as well as to use public transport.
    Saudi Arabia has recorded nearly 532,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 8,300 deaths.

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