Saudi Arabia authorities have said only Muslims who have been ‘immunised’ against Covid-19 will be allowed to perform the Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca from the start of Ramadan.
The Umrah is a shorter pilgrimage than the Hajj, is not compulsory and can be done at any time during the year.
But in a huge change amid the pandemic, when Ramadan starts next week, not everyone will be allowed to visit the holy mosque.
The hajj and umrah ministry announced that only ‘immunised’ people will be eligible for permits to perform Umrah, the Guardian reports.
They described the three categories of people considered “immunised” as people who have had two doses of the vaccine, those administered a single dose at least 14 days before and people who have recovered from coronavirus.
The same rules apply for those not performing Umrah but just wishing to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.
Similar rules will also apply to the holy mosque in the city of Medina.
It is unclear how long these rules will last.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, observed by billions of Muslims across the globe.
Muslims who are able to fast abstain from food, drink, smoking, and marital relations from dawn until sunset.
They also try to avoid other sinful acts, including gossip and swearing.
It’s not allowed to eat or drink during the hours of daylight, although there are exceptions for those who are ill, travelling, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, have a chronic illness, or are on their period.
The holy month lasts 29 or 30 days.
Families usually break the fast after sunset, coming together with others to enjoy an evening meal of Iftar and communal prayers in a mosque.
But for the second year, Ramadan is set to be different because of the pandemic and lockdown rules.
In 2020, Muslims looked for new ways to observe rules and share food and time together.
Digital technology helped people enjoy online prayers and sermons, as well as to give to charity during the month-long celebration.
This year is set to be the same as 2020 with indoor mixing between households still banned.