Pilgrims Return to Mecca as Saudi Arabia Eases COVID-19 Restrictions.

Muslims perform umrah at the Grand Mosque in Mecca after Saudi Arabia eased coronavirus restrictions, Sunday, October 4.

A very limited number of people circled Islam’s holiest site in Mecca Sunday to complete the pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia lifted coronavirus restrictions that had been in place for months.

The kingdom had suspended the umrah pilgrimage that draws millions year-round from across the world in early March as the coronavirus morphed into a global pandemic.

But as nations begin to ease those restrictions, the Saudi government on Sunday started allowing a maximum of 6,000 pilgrims a day to enter the sprawling Grand Mosque in Mecca. Only Saudi citizens and residents will be permitted to enter the mosque during this first phase of reopening, and each person has up to three hours to complete the pilgrimage.

State TV showed Sunday what appeared to be fewer than 50 people circling the Kaaba at the same time and walking several meters apart. Typically, the mosque would be packed with worshippers from around the world crowded shoulder-to-shoulder at all times of the day and night.

Saudi Arabia has recorded nearly 336,000 COVID-19 cases, including 4,850 deaths.


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