Saudi Arabia will today begin allowing its residents to undertake the Islamic Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca.
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The holy sites in Mecca are expected to allow 6,000 people per day beginning today and will proceed to expand to 15,000 people per day on October 18. Foreign pilgrims could be allowed to perform the Umrah beginning November 1, when Mecca will allow 100% capacity, with COVID-19 protective measures, such as social distancing and masks.
It is estimated that the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages together bring around $12 billion dollars into the Saudi economy, and losses for 2020 are expected to be significant.
Riyadh has targeted the religious pilgrimage industry for private investment in its Vision 2030 plan, which seeks to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy to reduce dependence on oil revenues. This year’s oil crash caused unemployment to rise to 15.4% and GDP to fall 7% in the second quarter of 2020, making economic diversification even more urgent.
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