Saudi Arabia on Wednesday temporarily suspended the Umrah pilgrimage and visits to the Prophet’s Mosque for Saudi citizens and expatriates in the Kingdom as a precautionary step to prevent the coronavirus.
According to a statement from the official source at the Ministry of Interior, the decision was taken in line with the recommendation of the committee concerned with following up on the developments of the situation of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The rare step by the kingdom, which hosts Islam’s holiest sites, expands on restrictions introduced last week for Muslim pilgrims from abroad making the same religious trips and limiting the entry of tourists. The latest measures concern the Umrah pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah and visits to a site in Medina.
“The decision will be under constant review and It will be reversed as soon as the reasons for reversal are present,” the SPA quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying.
Makkah, the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), is home to Islam’s holiest site inside the Grand Mosque. Medina is where the Prophet is buried. The Umrah pilgrimage alone brought in almost 7 million visitors from October 2018 to May 2019, according to Saudi government data.