Saudi Arabia bans religious visits to Mecca and Medina over coronavirus fears

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suspended visas for pilgrims visiting the Kingdom and Mecca or Medina for the purpose of 'Umrah’ or visiting the Prophet’s Mosque. 

Umrah is a pilgrimage to the holy city  of Mecca undertaken  by thousands of Muslims from all over the globe each month, throughout the year. 

In a statement it issued the ministry said that they have been following developments of the virus for some time and are implementing ‘approved international standards’ as a proactive preventive measure to prevent the arrival and spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) to the Kingdom. 

The ministry’s statement revealed that it will also suspending:

  • Entry for those travelling into the Kingdom with a tourist visa, if they have come from countries where the virus has been spreading. 
  • Saudi nationals and citizens of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council with national identity cards from travelling to and from the Kingdom, with the exception of Saudis who are abroad.
  • Visas for tourists visiting from countries where the new virus is a "danger".

'The Kingdom affirms that these procedures are temporary, and is subject to continuous evaluation by the competent authorities’, the statement said adding that these precautions are based on on the recommendations of the competent health authorities.

Stating that it is taking efforts to provide the utmost protection to the safety of citizens and residents,the foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia called on its citizens not to travel to countries where the new Covid-19 is spreading.

Even as the epicentre of the disease in China reports a decline in the number of fresh cases, Iran is emerging as a coronavirus hotspot in the region, where 15 people are reported to have succumbed to Covid-19.