The more than 1.5 million people residing in Islam’s holiest city will remain under a 24-hour curfew until the end of June.
Rabat – Saudi Arabia is planning to ease lockdown restrictions and revise its curfew this week, with the exception of the holy city of Mecca, which will remain closed and under a round-the-clock curfew until the end of June.
Saudi Arabia is reducing COVID-19 restrictions in phases. The first phase, to begin this Thursday, May 28, will revise the 24-hour state-wide curfew to 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The country plans to lift domestic travel bans, open mosques, and resume workplace attendance on May 31 and expects to lift the state of emergency on June 21.
However, the more than 1.5 million people residing in Islam’s holiest city will remain under a 24-hour curfew until June 21. Saudi Arabia expects to revise the curfew on June 21 and may permit prayers to begin in mosques.
Millions of people arrive in Mecca each year to partake in the hajj and umrah pilgrimages. Since early March, when the country banned visitors from the holy sites, vacant images of Islam’s most sacred shrine, the Kaaba, shocked the Muslim world.
In late February, Saudi Arabia announced its decision to suspend the umrah pilgrimage as concerns over the spread of COVID-19 grew. It is unclear if the country will cancel this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage in July due to the pandemic.
While many hold disbelief over the idea of suspending the pilgrimage, others say that allowing the religious gathering could be disastrous given the serious challenges of social distancing at hajj.
Although the idea of canceling the 2020 hajj seems unprecedented, authorities have canceled or restricted access to the holy site throughout history due to disease, conflict, or other reasons.
In early March, the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives released a statement documenting 40 historical times when the hajj was canceled or the number of pilgrims was reduced.
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has been under an imposed lockdown since early March. The country has seen nearly 75,000 confirmed cases of the virus with 399 deaths.