Saudi Arabia bans religious trips to Mecca and Medina over coronavirus fears

Worshippers arrive to pray in Mecca in the annual Haji pilgrimage. Photo: AFP/Getty Images.

Saudi Arabia has halted trips to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina over coronavirus outbreak fears.

Riyadh issued the ban in an effort to halt the spread of the virus, suspending visits to the holy cities in response to Covid-19 concerns.

The Kingdom's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was taking precautions in line with World Health Organisation efforts to stop the surge of the novel coronavirus.

Pilgrims make 'umrah' Islamic pilgrimages to the holy sites throughout the year.

The Haji, is an annual mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca Muslims must take at least once in their lifetime according to the faith.

Unlike the umrah, the Haji attended by millions happens just once a year.

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The Saudi holy city of Mecca. Photo: AFP/Getty Images.

The Saudi Press Agency, the Kingdom's official news outlet, announced the decision today.

The report described the suspension of entry into the Kingdom for Umrah and visiting the Prophet's Mosque as 'temporary'.

It also suspended entry to Saudi Arabia for travellers on tourist visas from the worst-hit countries, although it did list the countries in the report.

The Gulf state has imposed the stricter controls on its borders as countries around the world react to climbing rates of infections, with entire cities in lockdown and travellers quarantined as the killer virus spreads.


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