Saudi Arabia suspends Umrah for all amid coronavirus crisis

The kingdom extends temporary precautionary measures to include its citizens and residents after earlier stopping of foreign pilgrims

A relatively few number of Muslims pray around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Health Minister Abdel-Fattah Mashat was quoted on the state-linked news site Al-Yaum saying that groups of visitors to Mecca from inside the country would now also be barred from performing the pilgrimage, known as the umrah. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
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Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah on Wednesday for citizens and residents due to fears of an outbreak of coronavirus, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

They were also barred from "visits to the Prophet's mosque in Medina", according to a foreign ministry tweet.

The decision was based on "upon the recommendation of the committee concerned with following developments of the virus," said the agency statement.

It said that all GCC nations must have passports to travel to Saudi Arabia so authorities can track where they have been.
The kingdom temporarily suspended entry to the country for foreign pilgrims to Makkah and Madinah last week as well as the cancellation of tourist visas from countries where the virus is a threat.

The move is part of the country's effort to support "the international community and organisations such as the World Health Organisation to halt the spread of virus," the state news agency said in a statement.

Saudi announced on Monday its first case of the virus, a national who was returning from Iran through Bahrain.

The news agency, citing the Health Ministry, said people who had interacted with the infected man had been isolated and were being tested.

Saudi's Minister of Health, Tawfiq Al Rabiah, said the man was in a stable condition and has been isolated in one of the hospitals in the kingdom.

"We conducted tests on 70 people who came into contact with the infected patient," Mr Al Rabiah said in a video.

The minister said that 51 people have tested negative for the virus and authorities are awaiting the result for the rest of the group.

"We will be monitoring them to ensure they do not develop symptoms of the virus," he said.