The Coronavirus has killed more than 2,700 people , the vast majority of them in China.
Rabat – Saudi Arabia announced its decision to ban the Umrah pilgrimage temporarily amid mounting concerns over the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Arab News reported that at least 7 million people perform the Umrah pilgrimage annually.
The Saudi announcement is part of the measures put in place to ensure public safety in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry in Saudi Arabia said on Twitter: “Entry to the Kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and/or visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina is temporarily suspended.”
The decision is in line with “precautionary measures to prevent coronavirus from reaching the kingdom. We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm,” the tweet said.
In another tweet, the ministry said that Saudi authorities are following the developments of the spread of the new coronavirus.
“The Ministry [of Foreign Affairs] affirms the keenness of the kingdom’s government through those authorities to implement the approved international standards and support the efforts of countries and international organizations, especially the World Health Organization, to stop the spread of the virus, control it and eliminate it.”
The decision to impose the restrictions comes as after Kuwait detected its first case of coronavirus. The virus was carried by a Saudi citizen. The Saudi man arrived in Saudi Arabia from Iran, where a growing number of coronavirus cases.
China remains the hardest-hit region, with more than 2,700 fatalities.
In Africa, Egypt announced the first case earlier this month, while Algeria announced its first case a few days ago. Italy is the hard-hit region in Europe where there are 400 confirmed cases. At least 12 people have died due to the virus in Italy.
It remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia will announce any further bans on the Hajj Pilgrimage, expected to take place by the end of July. Just a few days ago, Morocco’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs informed Moroccans hoping to perform the 2020 pilgrimage to Mecca that they must pay the fees in March.
The ministry said that pilgrims must pay the MAD 50,445 ($5,185) fee between March 2 and 13.