| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Ramadan: Saudi Arabia suspends iftar in mosques due to Covid-19

Saudi Arabia has suspended iftar, suhoor and I’tikaf at mosques across the kingdom during Ramadan, which starts this month, in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Ramadan is expected to begin around April 13, although the exact date has yet to be declared.

Islamic Affairs Minister Abdullatif Al Sheikh announced on Tuesday that the often large gatherings to break the daily fast during Ramadan will not be taking place inside the kingdom’s mosques this year.

The measures are being taken to prevent a rising number of Covid-19 cases, he said.

Saudi Arabia reported an increase in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks. The seven-day rolling average of new cases went from 338 on March 1 to 644 daily on April 5.

Officials have warned the public that they must remain vigilant during Ramadan to avoid a surge in cases.

Iftar is the meal taken to break the fast during Ramadan, and large communal gatherings are common. Suhoor is the final pre-dawn meal before the fasting day begins.

I’tikaf is the practice of staying in a mosque for several days at a time to pray and reflect, often undertaken in the final 10 days of Ramadan.

On Monday, the kingdom announced pilgrims undertaking Umrah during Ramadan must be vaccinated   against the coronavirus or otherwise be immune.

Permits to perform Umrah will be granted to applicants who can demonstrate immunity from the virus.

This includes having had two doses of vaccine, having received one dose at least 14 days prior to arrival or having recovered from the virus recently, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry told the Saudi state news agency.

Those working in the Hajj and Umrah sectors must be vaccinated before the start of Ramadan, the ministry previously said.

Employees who are not vaccinated must provide a negative PCR test result every seven days, in line with broader rules brought in across the kingdom’s hospitality and services industries.

Authorities said they will increase inspections during the holy month to ensure that the public is complying with social distancing measures.