BEIRUT, Lebanon — Saudi Arabia has resumed permitting vacationers from overseas to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the dominion introduced this week, a brand new easing of the restrictions imposed final yr to forestall the unfold of Covid-19 on the Islamic holy websites.

Aspiring pilgrims from many international locations can now apply to carry out the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca, often known as umrah, so long as they will present proof that they’ve obtained a coronavirus vaccine accepted by the Saudi authorities, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday. The brand new coverage took impact on Monday.

The dominion has accepted the vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Foreigners who’ve obtained two doses of both the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines can enter provided that they’ve additionally obtained a 3rd shot of one of many 4 accepted vaccines.

Because the pandemic unfold final yr, Saudi Arabia barred vacationers from overseas from the primary pilgrimage, the hajj, which attracts thousands and thousands of pilgrims in regular years, spreading disappointment across the Muslim world. Religious Muslims who’re bodily and financially ready are required to carry out the hajj, one of many 5 pillars of Islam, not less than as soon as throughout their lives.

Final yr, only some hundred pilgrims who had been already within the kingdom had been allowed to go.

Overseas vacationers had been additionally barred from this yr’s hajj, which was in July.

Umrah may be carried out at any time of the yr. Permitting vaccinated overseas vacationers to use for it represents a step towards restoring the prepandemic established order on the holy websites.

The variety of permitted overseas guests will initially be restricted and can enhance over time, with the aim of finally permitting two million pilgrims a month.

Different restrictions, together with limiting the variety of worshipers in mosques and on buses, will even be enforced to lower the probabilities of an infection. As of Monday, Saudi Arabia had averaged 732 new cases a day over the last week, a 40 % decline from two weeks in the past, in line with the Heart for Methods Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins College.

Saudi Arabia nonetheless bans direct journey from quite a lot of international locations that it has deemed viral threats. Pilgrims from different international locations should observe a compulsory seven-day quarantine on arrival. About 29 percent of Saudi residents are fully vaccinated, in line with the Our World in Data undertaking on the College of Oxford.

In addition to having deep spiritual significance, the pilgrimage is huge enterprise and the ban on overseas worshipers damage firms throughout the Islamic world that cater to pilgrims.

Earlier than the pandemic, Jamal Ali, who works at a Beirut journey company that focuses on spiritual tourism, bought a variety of packages together with aircraft tickets and lodge stays. The ban on overseas pilgrims reduce his revenue by about 90 %, he mentioned.

He hoped that the resumption of overseas journeys to Mecca can be a step again towards normalcy.

“We perceive that Saudi Arabia is making an attempt to realize normal immunity,” he mentioned. “We’re ready for reduction from God, and for this pandemic to finish.”