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Saudi Arabia ends social distancing at Mecca’s Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca operates at full capacity on October 17, 2021, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. (AFP)
The Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca operates at full capacity on October 17, 2021, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. (AFP)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia — The Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is operating at full capacity today, with worshipers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Workers removed floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque, which is built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

“This is in line with the decision to ease precautionary measures and to allow pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque at full capacity,” reports the official Saudi Press Agency.

Pictures and footage this morning showed people praying side by side, making straight rows of worshipers that are formations revered in performing Muslim prayers, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last year.

While social distancing measures were lifted, the authorities say visitors must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds.

Also, the Kaaba remains cordoned off and out of reach.

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