Pilgrims trickled into Makkah after Saudi authorities on Sunday partially lifted a coronavirus ban on performing Umrah after a seven-month curb. Saudi Arabia, which held a scaled back Haj earlier this year limited to domestic worshippers, has allowed citizens and residents to start performing Umrah as of Sunday at 30 percent capacity, or 6,000 pilgrims a day. It will open for Muslims from abroad starting November 1. Last year, the Gulf state drew 19 million Umrah visitors. “All of Makkah is happy today, it’s like the end of a jail term. We have missed the spiritual feeling of pilgrims roaming the city,” said Yasser al-Zahrani, who became a full time Uber driver after losing his construction job during a three-month national lockdown imposed in March.“I pray we never go through the past few months again, it was a nightmare […] there was barely any work to cover my bills,” he told Reuters. Before the pandemic, more than 1,300 hotels and hundreds of stores buzzed around the clock to cater to pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Makkah and Madina.Now many are closed, the windows of some gathering dust. At midnight, tens of registered pilgrims wearing face masks prepared to enter the Grand Mosque in small groups.As they circled the Kaaba, officials made sure they kept a safe distance apart. Worshippers are no longer allowed to touch the Kaaba. According to Arab News, air-conditioning systems have also been equipped with ultraviolet sanitising technology, while crews will maintain an air filter cleaning schedule nine times a day in three different stages.Pilgrimage is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter. It aimed to boost Umrah visitors to 15 million by 2020, a plan disrupted by coronavirus, and to 30m by 2030.