Saudi Arabia suspends Umrah for nationals, residents over coronavirus fears

Muslims walk outside the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The Mosque of the Prophet) before the early morning prayer of al-Fajr in the holy city of Medina, in this January 16, 2014 photo. (File photo: Reuters)

Saudi Arabia is temporarily stopping its nationals and residents from visiting Mecca to perform Umrah or visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina to prevent the spread of coronavirus, according to an official in the interior ministry, the Saudi Press Agency reported citing an interior ministry source.

“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 interior ministry statement read.

The Kingdom’s interior ministry added that 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 are negated.”

The decision comes a week after 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 traveling from countries where the coronavirus poses a risk as determined by the Kingdom’s health authorities.

The measures taken by Saudi Arabia come at a time where the region is seeing a sharp increase in the number of cases reported in the Middle East, where most of the individuals infected had traveled from Iran which has a reported death toll standing at 92 as of Wednesday, the highest outside China.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:06 - GMT 11:06