SAUDI Arabia has decided to begin gradually receiving Umrah pilgrimage requests from abroad for vaccinated pilgrims with immediate effect after about a year and a half of not receiving overseas worshippers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Kingdom will initially allow 60,000 pilgrims to perform Umra each month, gradually increasing the number to reach the mark of two million.
This is, indeed, a piece of good news for all Muslims around the world, who were anxiously waiting for the lifting of restrictions to undertake a journey to the holy land.
Like other countries of the world, KSA too was badly affected by rapid spread of the virus and the authorities had to impose curbs to contain the highly contagious disease.
The easing of restrictions is understandable as Saudi Arabia has not only carried out an effective and comprehensive vaccination campaign to immunize its citizens against the virus but the relevant Saudi officials and departments have also gained necessary experience and expertise to manage Covid-related issues during the last two years.
This year, the Kingdom successfully hosted 60,000 Hajj pilgrims and based on that experience initially sixty thousand umra seekers from around the world would be entertained every month.
As Saudi Arabia has the necessary resources and expertise to manage big gatherings effectively, it is hoped that required arrangements would be in place by the time of next Hajj to ensure that the Hajj becomes a routine for Muslims.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) of Pakistan, which is marking completion of 500 days of its memorable existence, needs to evolve a strategy on a top priority basis to ensure that no Pakistani is denied the opportunity of visiting holy cities of Makkah and Madina on account of technical hitches or procedural lapses.
KSA now accepts foreign visitors having completed jabs of Chinese vaccines provided they get a booster shot of one of the four vaccines approved by the Kingdom.
Timely measures should be taken to help intending pilgrims complete the formalities in an orderly manner.