Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia stops pilgrimage to Mecca

Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia stops pilgrimage to Mecca

Just months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia has halted travel to its holiest sites in Islam over coronavirus fears. This co

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Just months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia has halted travel to its holiest sites in Islam over coronavirus fears. This comes as the Middle East recorded more than 220 confirmed cases, AFP is reporting.

The extraordinary decision by Saudi Arabia prevents foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray towards five times a day. It also said travel was suspended to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina.

The decision indicated the level of concern about the outbreak potentially spreading into Saudi Arabia, whose oil-rich monarchy stakes its legitimacy on protecting Islam’s holy sites.

“Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus and urges its citizens to exercise caution before travelling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks. We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement announcing the decision.

Indonesia’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Saudi Arabia to allow its citizens to continue their Umrah pilgrimage. Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country and it often sends about one million people on the pilgrimage every year to the kingdom.