Saudi Arabia to launch app for Mecca pilgrims amid virus

Saudi Arabia releases new details on how it plans to gradually allow Muslims back to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca to perform the year-round pilgrimage, which has been suspended for the past seven months due to the coronavirus.

Hajj Minister Muhammad Benten says the kingdom will launch an online application that allows citizens, residents of Saudi Arabia and visitors to apply and reserve a specific time and date in which they can perform the pilgrimage, known as “umrah,” to avoid crowding and maintain social-distancing guidelines.

The minister, speaking during a virtual seminar, does not say when the pilgrimage will be permitted to resume nor how many people would be allowed to perform it at the same time.

Pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the center of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, July 29, 2020. (STR / AFP)

Saudi Arabia today began easing some restrictions on international flights for the first time in six months.

— AP

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