Saudi Arabia suspends Umrah pilgrimage for fear of COVID-19
Saudi Arabia says it has temporarily suspended entry for individuals aiming to perform Umrah pilgrimage or to visit the Prophet's Mosque in the holy city of Medina over concerns of the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
According to Press TV, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tweeted early Thursday that the temporary suspension of Umrah is a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the new disease.
The Foreign Ministry said the decision is one of the three precautions taken by the Saudi government to "provide the utmost protections to the safety of citizens and residents and everyone who intends to come to the territory of the Kingdom to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet's Mosque or for the purpose of pilgrimage."
Umrah, a lesser pilgrimage compared to the annual Hajj, involves a visit to Saudi Arabia where Islam's holiest site Ka'aba is located.
The new coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.