Gulf kingdom has given no timeframe for expiry of restrictions, which will impact pilgrims seeking Umrah and tourism
Saudi Arabia on Thursday “temporarily” suspended foreigners from entering the country for Umrah or tourism if they belong to any country where confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been found.
The Gulf kingdom welcomes millions of Muslims every year for the Umrah and Haj pilgrimages. In the past year, it has also sought to foster more tourism by launching a new visa policy. In a statement, the ministry of foreign affairs said the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It is likely too soon to say if the restrictions would impact the annual Haj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to begin in late July.
According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia has not reported any cases of the coronavirus, but there have been multiple reports of the disease spreading in its neighboring countries. The move is likely to impact pilgrims from Pakistan, which has just confirmed two cases of the coronavirus in men who had recently traveled from Iran. However, Saudi Arabia has not yet issued any list of countries that would be impacted by its actions.
The number of new coronavirus infections inside China—the source of the outbreak—was for the first time overtaken by new cases elsewhere on Wednesday, reported the World Health Organization, with Italy and Iran emerging as epicenters of the rapidly spreading illness.
Asia has reported hundreds of new cases, Reuters reported, with Brazil confirming Latin America’s first infection and the disease—COVID-19—also emerging for the first time in Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria.
U.S. health authorities, managing at least 59 cases, have said a global pandemic is all but inevitable at this stage.