11:15 GMT09 April 2020
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    The Saudi news agency SPA reported on 28 February that the country's Tourism Ministry had temporarily suspended visas for seven countries, including China, Italy, and South Korea, where spikes in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) were registered.

    Riyadh has temporarily suspended Umrah to the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina for Saudi citizens due to coronavirus concerns, according to the state news agency SPA citing an official source in the Saudi interior ministry.

    The decision will be assessed regularly and reversed when the situation changes, SPA reported.

    The report comes since Saudi Arabia toughened entry rules for Persian Gulf residents, as well as residents of China, Italy, and South Korea.

    According to the ministry, it banned travellers with tourist visas issued by countries "in which the spread of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a danger, according to the criteria determined by the competent health authorities in the Kingdom".

    To date, over 93,000 people have been infected by the deadly virus in over 70 countries. The cumulative death toll is over 3,200, but over 50,000 patients have recovered.

    The Umrah or "minor pilgrimage" can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj, which is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar (from 28 July to 2 August in 2020). Every Muslim should make a pilgrimage to the holy site of Mecca at least once during their lifetime.

    Topic:
    2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (445)
    Tags:
    SARS coronavirus, coronavirus, pilgrims, pilgrimage, Medina, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
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