But the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which houses the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims around the world pray towards, will remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future.
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The continued closure of Mecca points to the increasing likelihood that the kingdom may suspend this year’s annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage, which falls in late July.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said millions of text messages were sent to people in multiple languages to inform them about the new rules for public prayer, which include keeping two metres apart, wearing face masks at all times and abstaining from greeting one another with handshakes or hugs.
Children under 15 are not allowed inside mosques, while the elderly and those with chronic conditions are being told to pray at home.
People are advised to perform the mandatory ablution – where parts of the body are washed before entering the premises – at home since washrooms at mosques will be closed, to use hand sanitiser and to bring their own prayer rugs and copies of the Koran.
The restrictions call for mosques to open just 15 minutes before each of the five daily prayers and to close 10 minutes after they conclude. Friday sermons and prayers are to last no longer than 15 minutes.
Despite taking early and unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 83,000 cases, including 480 deaths.
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