Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended the Umrah pilgrimage operations which include the visit to the Holiest places in Mecca and Medina. Kingdom’s ministry of foreign affairs announced this news on Twitter on Thursday with a caption “We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.”
The entry to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina is also temporarily banned.
The Foreign Ministry called on citizens not to travel to countries where the coronavirus cases have been reported. The Saudi government is trying to block the deadly virus as neighboring countries including Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates have confirmed dozens of cases. Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is only a major Middle Eastern country that has not reported any coronavirus case until now.
Apart from Middle Eastern countries, coronavirus which originated from China has been reported in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, USA, Canada, UK, Italy, Iran, Pakistan, and Australia too.
Saudi Arabia’s ban on Tourist-Visa travelers
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also suspending the entry of Saudi citizens and travelers from GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) under the national identity card tourists except for Saudis, who are in abroad wish to return to Saudi Arabia; in this case, they can enter with the national identity card. The citizens of GCC who arrived in Saudi Arabia with national identity cards can also return if they wish. The details have been mentioned in the following statement shared on Twitter.
Saudi officials have stressed that the restrictions are temporary and will be continuously reviewed by the health authorities.
Ban on Umrah is for less than 60s days and will be lifted in the holy month of Ramadan, reportedly.
Indonesian President respect Saudi Arabia’s decision
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has respected the decision of the Saudi Arabian government to ban foreigners from entering the country for religious visits.
In a statement to media, he expressed that they respected and appreciated the Saudi government for prioritizing the health of the people.
Indonesia contributed the second-highest number of umrah pilgrims last December with 443,879 arrivals, just below Pakistan with 495,270 according to Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry data.
Saudi Arabia has not confirmed any case of coronavirus till yet. The country welcomes nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims every year, who come from all over the world. Given the highly contagious nature of coronavirus suspending Umrah operations temporarily seems a wise move.