Saudi authorities suspended the Umrah in March and significantly downsized July’s Hajj pilgrimage in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, before announcing a gradual restart of Umrah earlier this month.
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This amounts to 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshipers a day. Only pilgrims between 18-50 years of age will be allowed to travel from abroad for Umrah, and they will have to provide a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival in the country. All pilgrims coming from abroad will need to self-quarantine for three days. The authorities said they have co-ordinated with state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines to provide the necessary seat capacity for pilgrims arriving from abroad.
This represents the third part of Saudi Arabia’s four-phase resumption plan which began on 4 October. The first phase allowed up to 30pc, or 6,000 domestic worshippers a day, to perform Umrah. The second phase, beginning on 18 October, allowed for up to 75pc capacity, or 15,000 domestic worshippers a day.
The announcement of the third phase comes just days after Saudi Arabian Airlines said it plans to resume services to 33 international destinations from next month as part of its own phased return to pre-pandemic operation levels. Saudi Arabia said last month that all of its Covid-19-related restrictions on air travel will be lifted after 1 January next year.
Saudi Arabia has seen a marked improvement in its management of Covid-19, with new daily infections down to around 400 this month, compared with 4,000-5,000 in June-July. Active cases now stand at just below 8,250, down from a peak of 63,026 in mid-July.
The restart of the Islamic Umrah pilgrimages for international pilgrims and the gradual ramp-up of commercial flights from next month should spur an increase in transport fuel demand in the country.
Saudi Arabia’s jet fuel demand fell to 47,500 b/d in January-August, down by 55pc from 105,500 b/d in the corresponding period in 2019, according to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (Jodi). Gasoline demand dropped by 21pc on the year to 431,500 b/d over the same period.
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