Saudi suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over COVID-19 fears


Riyadh: Saudi Arabia authorities on Thursday have temporarily suspended entry for people planning to visit the Kingdom for ‘Umrah’ (Pilgrimage) or for visiting the Prophet’s mosque in Medina over fears of the deadly coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The Kingdom has also suspended the entry of tourist visa holders coming from countries where the coronavirus was spreading at an accelerated rate, reports the Saudi Gazette citing the statement as saying.

The Ministry said that this precautionary step comes in completion of the efforts taken to provide the utmost protection to the safety of citizens and residents and everyone who intends to come to the Kingdom to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque or for the purpose of tourism.

“This precaution based on the recommendations of the competent health authorities to apply the highest precautionary standards, and take proactive preventive measures to prevent the arrival of the new coronavirus to the Kingdom and its spread,” it added.

In addition, Saudi nationals and citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations will not be able to use a national identity card to travel to and from the Kingdom, for the time being, reports the Arab Times newspaper.

Exceptions to this will be granted to Saudis returning home, and citizens of the GCC members who are in the Kingdom and want to return to their home countries provided that they left or entered the nation using a national identity card.

Health authorities at entry points will verify which countries travelers visited before arriving in Saudi Arabia and apply all necessary precautionary measures.

Overall, 220 coronavirus cases have been detected in the Middle East.

Feb 27 (IANS)


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