Saudi Arabia's mosques opened their doors to worshippers on Sunday for the first time in more than two months as the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam, eased restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus.
"It is great to feel the mercy of God and once again call people for prayers at mosques instead of at their homes," said Abdulmajeed Al Mohaisen, who issues the call to prayer at Al Rajhi Mosque, one of the largest in the capital Riyadh.
Worshippers headed to mosques for dawn prayers amid strict regulations requiring use of face masks and personal prayer mats, avoiding handshakes and standing at least 2 metres apart.
The elderly, children under 15 and people with chronic diseases are not permitted. People must perform the ablution rite, the act of washing the face, arms and legs before prayer, at home.
"My eyes filled with tears when I entered the mosque and when I heard the call to prayer. Thank God for this blessing that we are back to the houses of worship," Said Maamoun Bashir, a Syrian resident in Riyadh.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Saudi authorities said earlier this month that restrictions would be lifted in three phases, culminating in a curfew ending on June 21, with the exception of the holy city of Mecca.
The haj and umrah pilgrimages, which attract millions of Muslims from around the world, remain suspended.
The country of some 30 million has reported more than 83,300 infections and 480 deaths from the disease, the highest among the seven Gulf Arab states.