Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry has announced that it will temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners for pilgrimage and tourism purposes, preventing travel to the country’s holiest sites over fears of the fast-spreading coronavirus.
In a statement published Thursday, Riyadh’s government said it was temporarily “suspending entry to the kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque.”
The decision was taken “to 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 ministry added.
The ban comes less than 60 days before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins. This is the second busiest period during which millions of pilgrims visit Mecca – the birthplace of the Prophet.
The extraordinary move will stop foreign nationals from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, as well as Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in the city of Medina.
Saudi authorities stressed the measures were provisional and would be subject to “continuous evaluation.”
The foreign ministry also called on its own citizens not to travel to countries where the deadly flu-like virus was spreading.
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