*** ----> Umrah bookings in Bahrain witness spike as Saudi eases Covid-19 rules | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Umrah bookings in Bahrain witness spike as Saudi eases Covid-19 rules

TDT | Manama

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

The bookings for Umrah pilgrimage is witnessing a steep increase as Saudi Arabia eased its Covid rules for inbound travellers. According to travel firms and licensed Umrah companies in Bahrain, bookings are expected to further rise with the Holy Month of Ramadan fast approaching. This week, Saudi Arabia further eased Covid-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors. And accordingly, travellers flying to Bahrain no longer need to take a pre-departure PCR or antigen test on arrival.

The new rules also mean that face masks are not required in outdoor places, and social-distancing measures have been relaxed. Suspensions on 17 countries have also been lifted, with flights once again able to land in Bahrain from a host of African and Asian countries where travel was previously restricted. The development comes after the number of coronavirus infections in the country dropped by nearly 50 per cent in a week.

Travel firms say the move is likely to provide a boost to Bahrain ahead of Hajj, one of Saudi Arabia’s busiest times for travel, which is due to start in early July. Speaking to The Daily Tribune, Raju Pillai, Country Head of Akbar Travels, said the bookings have increased sharply owing to the easing of Covid restrictions. “We are expecting it to further rise during the Holy Month of Ramadan,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry has granted Online Travel Agency (OTA) status to Akbar Travels, making the firm one among the 28 exclusive travel platforms recognised by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Mr Raju said despite the increase in bookings “caution is still in the air for all travellers in the region and beyond”. “Although there has been a resurge in the number of bookings, the Covid factor and Russia-Ukraine conflict is making many postpone their travel plans.” The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah also announced that fully-vaccinated children are allowed to enter the Grand Mosque in Makkah and Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. The minimum age requirement for permits through the Umrahna and Tawakkalna applications is five years. The ministry reported that it had issued more than 29.4 million permits to the Grand Mosque over the past seven months.

During the same period, more than 3.7 million permits were granted to worshippers to the Prophet’s Mosque. Dr Tawfiq Al Rabat, Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, said: “Two years ago, Umrah was closed down due to the pandemic, and now it is open to everyone.” Saudi Arabia had said social distancing measures in the Grand Holy Mosque, the Prophet’s Holy Mosque and other mosques will be suspended, as well as in all open and closed places, activities and events. Masks must be worn inside mosques and other indoor facilities.

Moreover, passengers arriving in Bahrain will no longer be required to present PCR test or rapid antigen test results, while those arriving in Bahrain on visit visas are required to have medical insurance to cover any incurred Covid-19 treatment costs during their stay in Bahrain. Institutional and home quarantine measures for passengers arriving in Bahrain have also been lifted.