The presidency said that strict health measures have been introduced to protect pilgrims and help to stop the spread of the virus
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has employed 531 employees who will work across three shifts to receive 6,000 pilgrims each day
October 09, 2020
LONDON: More than 500 employees have been recruited to guide pilgrims performing Umrah after Saudi Arabia lifted a temporary ban on the pilgrimage due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has employed 531 employees who will work across three shifts to receive 6,000 pilgrims each day.
Pilgrims will be taken care of from the moment they arrive at the Grand Mosque until they have completed their rituals, so as to ensure that the pilgrimage is carried out in a safe manner, the presidency said.
The presidency said that strict health measures have been introduced to protect pilgrims and help to stop the spread of the virus.
Saudi Arabia ranks 25th for issuing virus-related scientific papers
October 13, 2020
JEDDAH: Worshippers suffering from chronic diseases were on Monday urged to postpone planned Umrah pilgrimages to the Grand Mosque in Makkah due to the increased risks to their health should they contract the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Saudi Ministry of Health officials said people with uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cirrhosis, and coronary artery disease who had been admitted to hospital within the past six months, should put their visits on hold.
Those having attended hospital in the last 12 months for treatment related to cardiac insufficiency, immunodeficiency, and chronic chest diseases were also recommended to stay away for the time being, along with pregnant women.
The ministry’s advice came via an awareness infographic published on its Twitter page and Live Well platform.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, assistant minister of health and ministry spokesman, said the Kingdom had taken a pioneering role and made a major global contribution to clinical research and studies related to COVID-19 treatments.
• The Ministry of Health on Monday announced 348 new cases of COVID-19 in the country.
• The Kingdom also reported 25 new virus-related deaths.
• Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 7,060,483 polymerase chain reaction tests.
Saudi Arabia ranks 25th in the world, second in the Middle East, and first among Arab countries for issuing scientific papers related to the virus, he added.
The Ministry of Health on Monday announced 348 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, meaning that 339,615 people had now contracted the disease. There were 8,708 active cases, and 842 patients were in a critical condition.
Of the new cases, 40 percent were women, 11 percent children, and 4 percent among the elderly.
The Kingdom also reported 25 new virus-related deaths taking the total number of people who had so far died from the disease in the country to 5,068.
In addition, another 593 patients had recovered from COVID-19, raising the total number of recoveries to 325,839.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 7,060,483 polymerase chain reaction tests, with 45,703 carried out in the last 24 hours
JEDDAH: A new set of permits was added for pilgrims in the Umrah app Eatmarna on Tuesday, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and supervisor of the app, Abdulrahman Shams, announced.
“The new permits include one for prayers in the Grand Mosque, one (for) prayers in the Prophet’s Sacred Chamber in the Prophet’s Mosque, and one for greeting the Prophet,” he said.
Shams added that the app, which started with the Umrah permit only, will add new permits gradually.
The Eatmarna app is available on smartphones (Android and via the App Store) and aims to enable pilgrims to plan their Umrah during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in advance.
Visits and prayers in the holy mosques are planned according to available capacity approved by the authorities, ensuring the provision of a spiritual and safe atmosphere that adheres to precautionary measures.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday 19 new COVID-19-related deaths. The Kingdom’s death toll now stands at 5,087.
There were 474 new cases reported across the country, meaning 340,089 people had now contracted the disease. There were 8,663 active cases, with 839 in critical condition.
According to the Ministry of Health, Makkah recorded the highest number of cases in the Kingdom with 59, while Madinah reported 58, and Riyadh 29.
In addition, 500 more patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 326,339.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 7,109,978 PCR tests, with 49,495 carried out in the last 24 hours.
The robot performs internal sterilization on six levels, which improves the strength and safety of environmental health
October 15, 2020
MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced that it will increase the number of robots used to sanitize the Grand Mosque.
More than 4,500 liters of sterilization materials are being used each day to disinfect the Grand Mosque to achieve a safe and healthy environment.
“The presidency is working to the highest standards to intensify sterilization operations in the Grand Mosque and its external squares, to provide the highest levels of readiness and to apply precautionary and preventive measures,” director of the environmental protection and epidemic control department at the presidency, Hassan Al-Suwairi, told Arab News.
He said that the presidency was studying all the options to mechanize technology and adapt it to serve pilgrims and create a safe and healthy environment in which they could practice their rituals with ease.
Al-Suwairi said that specialized robots were used for sanitization to keep pace with the latest inventions and to use the best technology devices in confronting the coronavirus.
“The smart robot, which is used in sterilization and environmental protection in enclosed spaces, works with an automatic control system programmed on a pre-map, and it holds a SLAM patent, with a high-performance atomization unit,” he said.
Al-Suwairi said that the launch of the high-precision robot would contribute to reducing the spread of coronavirus and other diseases and epidemics.
The robot performs internal sterilization on six levels, which improves the strength and safety of environmental health, and it intelligently analyzes sanitization requirements according to usage scenarios. It works from five to eight hours without human intervention.
The device can accommodate 23.8 liters. The volume of spraying is estimated at 2 liters per hour, and it eliminates bacteria in an area of 600 square meters at a time. The size of dry mist particles used in the disinfection process is from 5 to 15 micrometers.
“There are work teams in the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque that continuously study the possibility of increasing the number of smart robots in the Grand Mosque in proportion to its area,” Al-Suwairi said.
Al-Suwairi said that the technology reduced human intervention and measured the safety of environments that required continuous sterilization and disinfection.
He called on pilgrims to adhere to regulations and instructions to help the implementation of security, health and preventive plans aimed primarily to serve them and ensure their comfort
Second phase of Umrah return set to begin on Sunday
The second phase of Umrah will resume on Sunday with 15,000 pilgrims allowed to perform rituals and 40,000 worshippers offering daily obligatory prayers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
October 14, 2020
JEDDAH: The second phase of Umrah will resume on Sunday with 15,000 pilgrims allowed to perform rituals and 40,000 worshippers offering daily obligatory prayers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
The operations at the Grand Mosque will be held amid strict social distancing measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Umrah pilgrimages were suspended on March 1 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but last month the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah agreed to a phased return of Umrah operations starting on Oct. 4.
The first stage allowed Umrah for Saudis and expats residing in the Kingdom, before expanding to greater capacity and ultimately allowing pilgrims from outside of Saudi Arabia.
However, the decision to allow foreign pilgrims will be taken after reviewing the pandemic situation and the number of cases around the world.
The ministry has launched a smartphone app called Eatmarna to issue Umrah permits to prospective pilgrims. Users must ensure they are registered with the Ministry of Health’s Tawakkalna app to allow authorities to check on their health status and eligibility to perform Umrah rituals.
A new set of permits was added for pilgrims in the app on Tuesday.
“The new permits include one for prayers in the Grand Mosque, one for prayers in the Prophet’s Sacred Chamber in the Prophet’s Mosque, and one for greeting the Prophet,” a ministry official said.
Kingdom harnesses all its potential to make pilgrims feel at home, prioritizing their safety: Muhammad Saleh Benten
October 17, 2020
JEDDAH: The Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry has shared some of the secrets behind what made the “exceptional” 2020 Hajj season a success, with zero transmitted cases of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten said that the government utilized the latest technology to improve the pilgrim experience this season.
Speaking about his ministry’s efforts in preventing the spread of COVID-19, Benten said that it implemented precautionary measures in every phase of the pilgrimage, starting with the pilgrims being quarantined at home.
It also introduced institutional quarantine from the fourth to the eighth day of the Hajj, gave pilgrims electronic bracelets and enforced social distancing.
“For the second consecutive year, the ministry used the electronic platform through the ‘smart card’ application, taking into account the pilgrims’ special needs in terms of the journey’s organization and management,” he said. “The platform is a digital ID granted to the pilgrim that is directly linked with the ‘Smart Hajj’ application supervised by the ministry.”
He added that the digital ID contains the pilgrims’ personal, health and housing information, such as the numbers of their group, and which bus seat and bed has been allocated to them.
“It also enables pilgrims to know their special program, gathering points and times of departure. Moreover, the ministry registered pilgrims electronically by using an interactive platform that links 52 systems and is complemented by 30 governmental and nongovernmental bodies,” he added.
Relying on those services, the minister said, came as part of the ministry’s strategy to establish virtual platforms that reduce procedures, and keep pace with the technical development required to achieve the Saudi Vision 2030 goal to serve pilgrims.
With every Hajj season having its own challenges, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry has enjoyed success after success. However, the 2020 season put the ministry to an unprecedented test.
“As every year, Saudi Arabia harnesses all its potential and energies to make the Hajj season a success, prioritizing the safety and security of the pilgrims.
• When Saudi Arabia took the decision to hold Hajj for a limited number of people, it was keen to comply with all health and precautionary measures.
• This step was taken based on scientific decisions and thorough research studies that would ensure that pilgrims can perform Hajj rituals safely.
• The ministry and all Hajj-related authorities have learned many lessons from the last Hajj experience, where social distancing was implemented.
“However, last year’s Hajj was a little different with the whole world facing the COVID-19 outbreak. During the 2020 Hajj season, the Saudi government faced a rare and unprecedented challenge, and thanks to God, the Kingdom was able to address it,” he said.
He added: “When Saudi Arabia took the decision to hold Hajj for a limited number of people, it was keen to comply with all health and precautionary measures. This step was taken based on scientific decisions and thorough research studies that would ensure that pilgrims could perform Hajj rituals safely.”
He said that the efforts exerted by the Saudi government in this regard and the various facilities provided to pilgrims at different levels were highly praised, most notably the health precautions of social distancing and adhering to health requirements.
The ministry and all Hajj-related authorities have learned many lessons from the last Hajj experience, where social distancing was implemented. The minister shed light on the most notable lessons, and how they can benefit future seasons.
“The ministry implemented social distancing protocols in all phases of the pilgrims moving between the holy sites through limiting the seating capacity of buses to 50 percent,” said Benten.
As for the residence of pilgrims, officials conducted tests for all pilgrims and workers and assigned health observers to ensure guidelines were maintained.
He added: “Moreover, 49-seat buses were assigned to each group of 22 passengers, and Hajj routes were fixed in a way to achieve social distancing. These measures resulted in zero transmission of COVID-19 between pilgrims and their service providers.”
As many government officials have said in the past, preparations for the next Hajj season begin as soon as the previous iteration ends.
One of the advantages of the extraordinary 2020 season was that the ministry could accelerate projects in the holy sites.
Benten told Arab News that his ministry works every year on developing the services provided for pilgrims, to enrich their experience through providing diverse programs and initiatives.
“The ministry always benefits from the accumulated experiences, large-scale projects and personnel to provide the finest services with the best levels for pilgrims,” he said. “One of those initiatives that benefited the ministry, which will continue to implement it in the future, is the preparation and improvement of the holy sites, the preparation of a comprehensive scheme to expand the capacity and receive the largest number of pilgrims in order to achieve comfort, security, safety and environmental dimensions, reduce pollution and study spatial dimensions.”
He added that the ministry aims for a record time reception of pilgrims through the unified center to analyze data, enhancing crowd control efficiency and rapid intervention, reducing time to organize pilgrims, and distributing them equally.
The Hajj and Umrah companies have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; with some failing to meet their obligations towards their employees.
“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has provided a myriad of facilities to these companies since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic through developing work and encouraging mergers and investments in Umrah companies,” Benten said.
He added that the ministry has also contributed to reducing the value of financial security for nondefaulting active Umrah companies to SR250,000 ($66,666) for six months.
“The ministry also authorized Umrah companies to reduce their capital in the commercial register to SR500,000 ($133,332), close their doors for one year, and postpone payment of nonessential violations for six months,” said Benten.
The ministry launched the business clinics unit, which is one of its programs aimed at helping companies review their mechanisms and operational plans.
“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will also be organizing many workshops and training programs for Umrah companies on strategies to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and the means of developing their business with efficiency,” he concluded.
Each group of pilgrims allocated only three hours to complete the rituals of Umrah
October 18, 2020
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has begun allowing its citizens and residents to perform Umrah rituals at 75 percent capacity as part of its second phase of gradual resumption of visits, state news agency SPA reported.
The second stage allows for prayers in the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.
According to the plan drawn up by government agencies, the second phase of the resumption of Umrah will allow up to 15,000 Umrah performers and 40,000 worshipers or about 75 percent of the capacity in consideration of health protocols to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.
Each group of pilgrims is allocated only three hours to complete the rituals of Umrah, SPA reported.
Benten said the gradual resumption of Umrah was taken after studying the global situation
October 20, 2020
JEDDAH: Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten said on Monday health, safety, and security of worshippers are at the top of the government’s priorities.
Speaking at an online seminar titled “Umrah amid simple procedures and strict precaution,” he said the Saudi authorities are making concerted efforts to serve worshippers without compromising on their safety. Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques and Deputy Hajj Minister Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat also attended the seminar.
“All government entities have been collectively working to ensure that Umrah pilgrims have registered with the Tawakkalna app. They follow up to make sure that visitors have not recently mixed with anyone who has coronavirus or developed any COVID-19 symptoms,” Benten said.
Benten said the gradual resumption of Umrah was taken after studying the global situation. He said the reintroduction of limits on Umrah pilgrims cannot be ruled out. He said it all depended on the number of infections around the world.
“We are in close contact with the Health Ministry, and if we detect any danger, we will immediately change our plans. However, we may increase the numbers of visitors if we witness a drop in COVID-19 cases,” he added.
The minister concluded that opening Umrah for international visitors would be an extraordinary decision. “No country has so far announced to receive such a huge number of visitors during the pandemic. Once approved, Saudi Arabia will be the only country to take such an initiative.”
Al-Sudais highlighted the measures taken to help pilgrims perform rituals in a safe environment without any hassles.
Ministry prepares to receive International Umrah pilgrims
A total of 531 Umrah companies and establishments are gearing up to receive foreign pilgrims during the third phase of the gradual resumption of the Umrah service and visit to the Two Holy Mosques, which is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1.
This will be strictly in compliance with the coronavirus precautions and protocols to ensure the safety of pilgrims coming from abroad, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Hani Al-Omairi, member of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah and the Hotels Committee in Makkah, said that the Umrah companies and establishments have organized many specialized courses for their employees on many aspects.
The courses included: the way of dealing with crises, crowd management, reception of pilgrims, offering the best possible services at airports and hotels, supervising their entry and exit from the Grand Mosque in line with guidelines, and taking appointments through the application Eatmarna with regard to performing the rituals.
This will be through direct supervision by qualified personnel from Umrah firms.
Al-Omairi said that there are more than 6,500 foreign Umrah agents who will be associated with the licensed 531 Saudi companies and establishments to arrange the performance of the rituals by millions of pilgrims from around the world.
There are 32 sites and platforms available to book and make payment for the pilgrimage programs for foreign pilgrims.
“There are more than 1,200 hotels, with over 270,000 rooms in Makkah and over 75,000 hotel rooms in Madinah with a high-quality classification and international standards.
“There are 14,000 young Saudi men and women working in this sector. It is expected that the Umrah season will fetch about SR10 billion with 70 percent operation of hotels, transportation, and commercial establishments during the current season,” he added.
JEDDAH: The number of worshippers allowed to attend the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah under coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions on Friday reached its maximum capacity.
In line with Saudi Ministry of Health preventive regulations, officials have implemented safety measures to make it possible for the Prophet’s Mosque to operate at 40 percent of normal visitor levels.
Crowd control plans put in place by the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Prophet’s Mosque, with the help of Saudi Red Crescent Authority volunteers, enabled Friday prayers to run smoothly.
Presidency spokesman, Jama’an Al-Asiri, told Al-Ekhbariya TV that preparations had been concluded before Isha prayers on Thursday.
“This included sanitizing the Prophet’s Mosque and preparing it, setting up Zamzam water bottles to receive worshippers on Friday, and coordinating with the mosque’s armed forces and Hajj and Umrah armed forces to facilitate entry into the mosque,” he said. Al-Asiri added that by 10 a.m. the allocated 40 percent capacity had been met. The exit plan allowed those in the outer areas to leave first, then those on the rooftops, before finally letting out worshippers inside the mosque. As part of the COVID-19 preventive measures, people are still not allowed to pray near the Rawdah.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 14 new COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, raising the total to 5,264.
IN NUMBERS 344,157 COVID-19 cases
8,315 Active cases
There were 383 new cases reported in the Kingdom, meaning 344,157 people have now contracted the disease. There were 8,315 active cases, of which 796 patients were in serious or critical condition.
According to the Ministry of Health, 42 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, while Makkah reported 40, and Jeddah 11, while 397 more patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 330,578.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 7,615,539 polymerase chain reaction tests, with 52,876 carried out in the last 24 hours.
Due to the pandemic, municipalities in the Northern Borders region have used more than 1.1 million liters of sanitary products to help stop the spread of the virus.
Specialized teams made up of more than 230 workers disinfected 3,487 sites using 102 sanitizing machines. A total of 440,803 cleaning containers, items of equipment, and machinery were also cleaned.
In addition, 1,054 workers have been equipped with 263 specialized machines to remove 21,276 tons of waste, and 33,162 square meters of rubble and construction waste.
The official delivered these details at a virtual workshop on Monday
October 27, 2020
MAKKAH: People arriving in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah are not supposed to wear Ihram on their arrival, as they have to undergo a three-day quarantine in their hotels, said Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
He said at the end of their hotel stay, their respective Umrah companies will transport them to the nearest “Miqat” to don Ihram and continue with their rituals.
In the third phase of Umrah resumption, which begins on Nov.1, pilgrims from around the world will be allowed to enter the Kingdom. Some 20,000 pilgrims — residents and visitors — can perform rituals daily amid strict social distancing measures.
Al-Maddah said the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) is monitoring the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic situation in every country to help inform the relevant authorities before Umrah arrivals.
The official delivered these details at a virtual workshop on Monday.
He said the Eatmarna app has been downloaded around 3 million times and more than 1.4 million people have applied for permits, with over 1 million being issued for Umrah and prayers in the Grand Mosque.
Al-Maddah said in case of a hike in infections, authorities may limit the number of pilgrims at any point.
He said full medical insurance is mandatory to ensure adequate health care for pilgrims in case of COVID-19 infection or any other health issues.
Al-Maddah said Weqaya will determine which countries can send pilgrims depending on the number of infections. He reassured that Umrah companies will be provided with regular updates
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