A relatively fewer number of Muslims pray around the Kaaba in Holy City of Makkah on Wednesday. AP
Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah pilgrimages to the two Holy cities of Makkah and Medina for Saudi citizens and the kingdom's other residents due to coronavirus concerns, state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia reported its first case of the new coronavirus on Monday from an individual who had not disclosed his visit to Iran when entering Saudi Arabia.
Cleaners wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, as they swipe the floor at the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque on Tuesday. Reuters
"Based on the recommendations of the committee appointed to monitor coronavirus...it has been decided to suspend Umrah for citizens and residents in the kingdom," SPA said, citing an official source in the Saudi interior ministry.
The decision will be reviewed regularly and reversed when the situation changes, it added.
They were also barred from "visits to the Prophet's mosque in Medina," according to a foreign ministry tweet.
Saudi Arabia last week halted Umrah visas for foreigners and banned Gulf citizens from visiting the two cities because of the virus.
It also banned tourists from at least 25 countries where the virus has been found, and on Tuesday it limited arrivals of travellers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The embassy noted that it coordinated with UAE national carriers Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways and Saudi national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines to operate flights for the next 72 hours according to the announced schedule. It commended in this regard the notable cooperation shown by officials of the national carriers in question.
Coronavirus concerns led Saudi Arabia to cut off air and sea travel with Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The kingdom had earlier closed off its land borders as well.
The 11 individuals diagnosed with the new coronavirus include two Italians, two Filipinos, one Montenegrin, one Canadian, one German, one Pakistani, one Emirati, one Russian and one British citizen.
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