Saudi Arabia, which is the home to Islam's holiest site announced that it will suspend the entry of foreigners for the year-round "umrah" pilgrimage. The ban which was announced on February 27 is an unprecedented move that has left tens of thousands of pilgrims in limbo. This move has also caused widespread uncertainty regarding the annual Hajj pilgrimage that is scheduled for July.
Tens and thousands of pilgrims have continued to offer prayers at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia despite the rising cases of coronavirus. According to sources, the Garand Mosque was packed with several thousands of worshippers on February 28, showing that faith trumps health concerns and the challenge of disease control for the worshippers.
As per reports, the floors of the Grand Mosque are washed at least four times a day and the roughly 13,5000 carpets in the areas that are designated for prayer are regularly cleaned and disinfected. According to Grand Mosque official Jaber Wadani, the authorities are using the best cleaning and sterilisation methods available to them and further added that the carpets were scrubbed and perfumed daily.
Reports have claimed that the inside of the mosque that contains the Kaaba, which is the focal point of Islam still continues to be packed with tens and thousands of worshippers, most of which are wearing masks to protect themselves. Three pharmacies near Grand Mosque has reportedly run out of the masks because of the unprecedented and sudden rise in demand for them.
While the pharmacies might be enjoying a surge in demand, other businesses have reported severe losses after Riyadh decided to suspend foreign pilgrims. The pilgrimage and the worshippers are very important source of revenue for the Saudi Government. Regarding the ban on foreign pilgrims, the government has reportedly stated that the ban is temporary but has not announced when the ban would be lifted.