JEDDAH: Saudi authorities have removed thermal cameras installed nearly two years ago at the Grand Mosque (Majid-ul-Haram) in the holy city of Makkah as the kingdom has recently eased restrictions against COVID-19.
The General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques on Friday removed all equipment previously used in checking worshippers’ temperatures before entering the Grand Mosque.
“After 20 months of installing the thermal cameras at the entrance of the Holy Mosque, the presidency removed them timed with relaxing precautions and obligating worshippers to obtain permits via apps to perform Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) and prayers,” deputy president of field services Mohammad Al Jabri said told local media.
Worshippers on Friday performed the first weekly noon prayers shoulder to shoulder at the Grand Mosque after a distancing rule was scrapped earlier in the week. After more than a year and a half, Muslims worldwide were delighted to see Friday prayers at the Two Holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah return to full capacity.
As of last Sunday, Saudi Arabia started relaxing curbs against COVID-19 as the epidemiological situation in the country has stabilised amid a sharp decline in infections.
The relaxed measures include removing mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor places and ending distancing for worshippers at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina where full operation has been reinstated. However, worshippers are required to continue wearing face masks at both mosques.
Unlike the Grand Mosque, worshippers at other mosques across Saudi Arabia will continue to maintain social distancing and maks wearing, the ministry in charge of religious affairs said.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs said in a statement that the recommendation of the Public Health Authority is to continue to apply the distance between worshippers in mosques, because they are frequented by all ages and those with various health conditions. “Risks will be periodically reassessed according to the latest epidemiological situation,” the ministry added.
In July, only about 60,000 inoculated citizens and residents were allowed to take part in a vastly scaled-down form of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Last August, Saudi Arabia announced it would begin accepting vaccinated foreigners to perform the Umrah.