Muslim Hajj pilgrims perform evening prayer around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, located at the centre of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on August 14, 2018. Photo credit: Getty Images
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that it was temporarily suspending all visits for religious pilgrims to Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
Additionally, the ministry also suspended the entry for tourists arriving from countries where there has been an outbreak of coronavirus.
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) February 26, 2020
It also said that it was suspending the use of national identity card for its citizens and citizens of GCC states to travel to and from Saudi Arabia. However, an exception would be made for Saudi nationals currently abroad who used their national identity cards to exit as well as GCC citizens who are currently in Saudi Arabia and wanted to return to their home countries.
The ministry said that the decision was “based on the recommendation of the competent health authorities to apply the highest precautionary standards,” and that it was taking “proactive preventive measures to prevent the arrival of the new Coronavirus (Covid-19) to the kingdom and its spread.”
The number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East has climbed to 223.
Iran has witnessed the largest outbreak of the virus in the region and has officially reported about 139 cases, with 19 deaths.
The UAE has reported 13 cases of the virus, with the latest being that of a couple who entered the country from Iran.
The number of infection in Kuwait has risen to 26 on Wednesday and Bahrain has reported a total 33 cases as of Wednesday. Oman reported four cases and reportedly quarantined 250 people.
Saudi Arabia has not yet declared any cases of coronavirus within the country.