ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs said on Monday it welcomed the resumption of the second phase of Umrah by Saudi Arabia, allowing Saudi nationals and residents to start performing the pilgrimage at 75 percent capacity.
Makkah slowly stirred from a seven-month hibernation earlier this month as pilgrims trickled in after Saudi authorities partially lifted a coronavirus ban on performing Umrah — a pilgrimage to Islam’s two holiest sites that is undertaken at any time of the year.
In the first phase, Saudi Arabia, which held a largely symbolic Hajj earlier this year limited to domestic worshippers, allowed citizens and residents to start performing Umrah at 30% capacity, or 6,000 pilgrims a day, subsequently increasing it to 75 percent or 15,000 pilgrims per day from October 18, 2020.
The pilgrimage will open for Muslims from abroad starting November 1.
“It’s a good step by Saudi Arabia and it is a blessing for Muslims around the world,” Imran Siddiqui, a spokesperson at the religious ministry, told Arab News. “Ministry and people of Pakistan are happy over the resumption on second phase of Umrah.”
He added that Pakistanis hoped that international pilgrims would also be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage soon.
In February this year Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah as part of its effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Last year, the pilgrimage drew 19 million visitors to Saudi Arabia, with Pakistan topping the list with more than 2.1 million Umrah pilgrims.