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Joy as Saudi Arabia scraps most Covid-19 precautionary measures

A Muslim pilgrim prays at the plain of Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Picture: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters

A Muslim pilgrim prays at the plain of Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Picture: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters

Published Mar 7, 2022

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Cape Town - Images of public servants removing physical distancing stickers around the sacred precinct by the Ka’abah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), marked the lifting of several Covid-19 restrictions.

KSA through its Interior Ministry lifted most of the precautionary measures implemented amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and announced the suspension of direct arrivals to and from the KSA on Saturday.

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Other major restrictions lifted were the scrapping of physical distancing in places of worship, and allowing full capacity at the two holy mosques. Masks will only be compulsory in closed spaces.

The KSA also announced that no negative result for an approved PCR or Rapid Antigen tests were required before entering the kingdom.

Lifting of flight suspensions coming to and departing from the kingdom included 17 countries: South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, the United Comoros, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan.

The ministry has however announced the requirement of having insurance to cover the cost of treatment should a person get infected with Covid-19, and that institutional and home quarantine had been lifted.

Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) second deputy president and second deputy president of the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC), Shaykh Riad Fataar, said: “The MJC is completely elated and we are very happy to hear the Saudi government will be allowing Umrah and Hajj to take place.

“South Africa has been taken off the list of those not allowed to travel to Saudi. Sahuc has also taken the initiative that a dynamic list is going to be put out, which means we have to be prepared for when all of this paperwork comes through, in that way people will be able to see where they are in the queue.”

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South African Muslim Travel Operators Association (Samtoa) chairperson Sedick Steenkamp said: “As Samtoa, we are always concerned about (the) safety and security of our pilgrims, but we believe that if all health and safety protocols as set out by the Saudi Arabian and South African governments are adhered to, all travellers should have a safe journey. These protocols are in line with world-class standards.”

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Covid-19pandemic

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