Rows of worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia s holy city of Mecca, on December 30, 2021, following the imposition of new restrictions due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. AFP
As part of the regulations, the tourism companies organising the trips are obliged to provide smart watches for each pilgrim that include a timetable for the religious programme, appointment times, accommodations, and that monitor the health status of each worshiper during and before the trip, as well as the results of PCR tests.
The regulations also require the tourism companies to collect payment for the trips in Egyptian currency, the tourism ministry said in a statement.
The statement added that would-be pilgrims must be fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine and undergo a PCR test 72 hours before arriving in Saudi Arabia, according to the Kingdom's guidelines for the small pilgrimage.
On 28 November, the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah said that all pilgrims arriving on Umrah visas from non-restricted countries and who have been jabbed by one of the four Saudi-approved vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca – can immediately perform Umrah without quarantine.
On 25 November, the Saudi Ministry of Interior announced that travellers from Egypt would be allowed to directly enter the kingdom starting 1 December, removing the country from its restricted list.
Egypt's Ministry of Tourism said in its statement that Egyptian pilgrims will be required to undergo another ID now COVID-19 test upon arrival at any of the Egyptian ports.
The ministry said tourism agents are required to provide healthcare systems for pilgrims, which includes evacuating pilgrims who feel sick and repatriate them to Egypt.
Millions of Muslims from around the world travel every year to Saudi Arabia to perform the small pilgrimage, starting the beginning of the year and peaking during the fasting month of Ramadan, which is set to begin in mid-April 2022.
In early August, Saudi Arabia started receiving requests for Umrah and Haj visas from various countries after an 18-month-long suspension due to restrictions on entering the kingdom prompted by the pandemic.