After curbing entry of foreigners, Saudi Arabia has temporarily halted a non-compulsory religious pilgrimage for its citizens and residents as well in response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak on March 4. The kingdom hosts Sunni Islam's holiest sites, however, this rare step was reportedly taken to expand its restrictions introduced for Muslim pilgrimages from foreign countries making the religious trip and also to limit the entry of tourists.
The latest measures concern the Umrah pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and visits to a site in Medina. The state-run agency quoted the Saudi Interior Interior Ministry official said that “the decision will be under constant review” and added that it will be reversed soon.
The kingdom has not put restrictions in place for the obligatory and better known Hajj pilgrimage which will begin at the end of July. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also reportedly confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 infection, health ministry confirmed to a state-run agency. The citizen that contracted the disease entered the Gulf country from Iran via Bahrain and did not confirm his travel itinerary at the border checkpoint, confirmed agency report.
In a statement that was published earlier by Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry, the country had decided to temporarily suspend the entry of all citizens from the Gulf Cooperation Council member states to Mecca and Medina. The statement also clarified that the decision will exclude all citizens from Gulf Cooperation Council member states that were already in Saudi Arabia for more than 14 continuous days and didn't show any symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
First detected in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province of China, the virus outbreak has now spread across more than 70 countries since December 2019. The total number of confirmed cases within China has reportedly hit 80,282 and more than 94,000 worldwide. According to reports, the death toll in China has also surpassed 2,900 and the National Health Commission also confirmed more than 119 new cases. The death toll due to the deadly virus across the world also mounted to 3,221.