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RIYADH: With Ramadan fast approaching, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions could not have come at a better time for Saudi residents and citizens.

Prayers in mosques, including tarawih, or night prayers, will resume after a two-year hiatus due to restrictions on social gatherings. Bazaars and other festive activities were also allowed to operate, adding to the festive mood.

On March 4, 2020, Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah for citizens and residents amid fears of the spread of COVID-19, while visits by pilgrims to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina were also restricted.

In March this year, the Saudi Ministry of Health lifted most precautionary and preventive measures related to the pandemic, including the wearing of face masks in public and social distancing in public and private spaces.

Residents of the Kingdom shared their excitement over the move ahead of the holy month.

“I am happy to see that Ramadan is in full swing,” Wid Massoud, 26, from Jeddah told Arab News.

“It’s been a tough two years, socially, economically and psychologically, so bringing back the festive mood is something to look forward to.”

She added: “The past two years have really opened my eyes. Spending time in the mosque has always been one of my favorite ways to relax and connect with God during Ramadan. Now only time will tell if it will be a comfortable option this year too.

Massoud is the youngest in her family and still lives at home. “Our house is actually the grandparents’ house where everyone meets every day for the fitur. It will be nice to have all my nephews and nieces on a daily basis. This part of Ramadan has definitely been missed.

The Jeddah resident said she also missed being part of ‘Khair for All’, a group of young volunteers who donate time and effort to help provide food and other necessities to people living in the poorest neighborhoods of the city.

For two years, the 35 million inhabitants of the Kingdom have been waiting for the moment when they can put the brakes linked to the pandemic behind them. With daily cases now numbering in the hundreds and dwindling, life appears to be returning to normal.

“I think it’s wonderful that all restrictions related to COVID-19 have been lifted at this time, because for the past two years people have been living with uncertainty and fear of contracting the virus,” Saud said. Al-Saud, 26, from Jeddah.

“The lifting of these restrictions shows that the virus can be defeated. It’s even better that it happened in time for Ramadan, so that people can practice all Ramadan activities properly.

Al-Saud added, “I love how Ramadan brings whole communities together and everyone seems to be in a much better mood. It’s because Ramadan is a time when you get closer to God, so for me Ramadan is about being the best Muslim you can be.

“This Ramadan, I look forward to going to the less privileged areas of my city and giving food parcels to people in need. This has been a missed activity for the past two years.

Saudi Arabia no longer requires travelers to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, provide a negative PCR test, or be quarantined upon arrival in the Kingdom.

However, wearing masks indoors is still a requirement and people still need to show their immunity status on the Tawakkalna app to enter establishments such as hotels and restaurants.