Saudi Arabia has reinstated social-distancing measures at the Grand Mosque in Mecca and Medina’s Prophet’s Mosque, the two holiest places in Islam, to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency cited an official as saying the measures would apply to both worshippers and those performing the Umra, or minor pilgrimage. The source also stressed the need for all visitors to wear facemasks.
The rules are in line with a directive from the Saudi government, which reimposed the mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing in all places, whether indoors or outdoors, on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia has seen a marked increase in Covid-19 cases in the past month. On Wednesday, the health ministry recorded 744 new cases – the highest number since mid-August. It has reported 554,000 in total, including 8,874 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.
So far, 67% of the country’s 35 million population has received at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 6% has had a booster shot.
On Sunday, the government announced that all citizens, residents and visitors would be required to show proof of their booster to visit shops, malls and restaurants from 1 February.