Left Menu
Development News Edition

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage, tourism amid coronavirus

Reuters | Riyadh | Updated: 27-02-2020 17:26 IST | Created: 27-02-2020 17:21 IST
Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage, tourism amid coronavirus
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI

Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended arrivals by foreigners for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourists from some two dozen countries where the new coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases deepened fears of a pandemic. The step comes ahead of the holy fasting of Ramadan, which begins in late April this year when visits by Muslims to the kingdom accelerate for Umrah. More than 7.5 million people performed the minor pilgrimage in the birthplace of Islam throughout 2019, according to official figures.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not reported any coronavirus cases, but the other four Gulf Arab states have. The virus has infected about 80,000 people worldwide and killed more than 2,800, the majority in China where the outbreak began in late 2019.

The number of new infections inside China was for the first time overtaken by new cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy and Iran emerging as epicenters of the illness. Kuwait and Bahrain recorded more cases on Thursday, all in people who had been in Iran, to bring their totals to 43 and 33 respectively. Oman has diagnosed four cases and the United Arab Emirates, a main air transit hub, has reported 13 cases.

Pilgrimage is big business for Saudi Arabia, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, and is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious economic reform agenda. Some 2 million pilgrims are expected in late July for the week-long haj, the world's largest annual gathering of Muslims.

The Saudi foreign ministry said overnight that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe. Entry is also suspended for visits to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. In Indonesia, Joko Asmoro, of the Association of Muslim Haj and Umrah Organizers, told Reuters that 150,000 to 200,000 Indonesian pilgrims could be affected by the suspension over the next month.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index fell 1.4% on Thursday, weighed down by tourism-related firms Jabal Omar Development, Seera Group, and Al Hokair Group. The kingdom introduced a new tourism visa last October for 49 countries as part of a broad effort to boost non-oil revenues. Its top tourism official said this week 400,000 tourist visas had since been issued as the country aims to attract 100 million annual visits in 2030.

The ministry did not specify which states would be impacted by the travel restrictions but said health authorities would determine where the outbreak constituted a danger.

AIRPORT CONFUSION

In the hours after the announcement, there was some confusion at airports abroad with flights to Saudi Arabia about who was eligible to travel. UAE-based Emirates and flydubai, citing Saudi directives, said they would no longer carry passengers with tourist visas from China, Japan, Italy, Iran, India, Pakistan and a number of other countries.

It was unclear on what basis those countries were identified and whether the countries referred to travelers' nationality or their departure location. Spokesmen for the Saudi government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Iran has had the highest number of deaths from the virus outside China. Iran's health ministry on Thursday reported 26 deaths and 245 infections.

Several of Iran's neighbors have closed their joint borders and banned flights due to the outbreak. Bahrain said on Thursday it had halted flights to Iraq and Lebanon. The UAE said parents must declare if children or close relatives have traveled in the past four weeks to several Asian countries, Italy or Iran. Neighboring Qatar on Thursday postponed the Doha Interfaith Dialogue Conference that was to take place on March 3-4, without giving a reason. Two sources said it was over coronavirus fears. Qatar's government communication's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asia has reported hundreds of new cases, Brazil confirmed Latin America's first infection and the disease was also detected for the first time in Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania, and Algeria.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Download The Devdiscourse News App for Latest News.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Sanitation post-COVID 19: Tissue paper not in fashion, learn to wash

Tissue paper has failed COVID 19 test. The modern understanding of sanitation is passing through a stage of transformation. Those who used to feel proud of using tissue paper have been compelled to wash frequently their hands with soap. In ...

Globalization post-coronavirus to get a hit, self-sufficiency paradigm to rule

The massive scale of coronavirus outbreak, accompanied by uncertainty and fear, could lead to new behaviors and beliefs in the 21st-century population that is empowered with the internet....

Ayurveda for COVID 19: Professionals owe the responsibility to protect it from quacks and fake news

Indian Ayurveda professionals are lagging behind their foreign counterparts in handling quacks and protecting credentials of the Ayurveda at the time of COVID 19 pandemic. The professionals of Ayurveda cannot abjure the responsibility to co...

Videos

Latest News

NIA to probe terror attack on gurdwara in Afghanistan; first overseas case registered by agency

Registering its first overseas case, the NIA on Wednesday filed an FIR to probe the terror attack on a gurdwara in Afghanistans capital Kabul last month that left 27 people including an Indian citizen dead. This is the first case of its kin...

Merkel: Will recommend tracking apps if tests successful

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that if tracking apps aimed at helping rein in coronavirus showed signs of being successful, she would recommend them and would be prepared to use them herself. A group of European experts s...

U.S. postpones immigration asylum hearings again due to coronavirus

The U.S. government said on Wednesday it had postponed for a second time hearings for asylum-seeking migrants in Mexico due to the coronavirus outbreak.The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it and the Justice Departme...

U.S. will work with global oil producers to address volatility in markets -Trump adviser

The United States will work with the worlds largest oil producers to address volatility in global oil markets, U.S. President Donald Trumps national security adviser Robert OBrien said on Wednesday.OBrien made the remark at a White House ne...

Give Feedback