Umrah temporarily suspended for Saudi nationals...

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Umrah temporarily suspended for Saudi nationals

 International Desk

 Published: 11:42 AM, 5 March 2020   Updated: 11:43 AM, 5 March 2020

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

The government of Saudi Arabia has on Wednesday decided to suspend umrah pilgrimage temporarily for its citizens and residents to prevent the spread of coronavirus. They are also barred from visits to the Prophet's mosque in Medina, the Kingdom’s interior ministry said on Wednesday.

The interior ministry statement read: “It was decided, based on the recommendation of the committee concerned with following up the developments of the situation of the new coronavirus (19-COVID), to suspend Umrah temporarily for citizens and residents in the Kingdom.” 

The decision of temporary suspension for nationals and residents visiting the Holy sites will be reviewed and lifted once “the reasons that called for it is negated," the interior ministry added. 

Earlier last week, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended entry for individuals seeking to perform Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca or visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, as well as tourists travelling from countries where the coronavirus poses a risk as determined by the Kingdom’s health authorities.  

Saudi Arabia on Monday confirmed its first case of new coronavirus after one its citizens who had returned from COVID-19 hotspot Iran tested positive.

Visas for the umrah had already been suspended last week amid growing fears over the spread of the virus in the Middle East. 

The ban's effect will be especially large at this time of year because Ramadan starts in April and the holy month is considered a favourable period for the umrah.  

Citizens from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council have also been banned from entering Mecca and Medina. - Al Arabia, AFP