Saudi Arabia suspends entry for pilgrims
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended foreigners’ entry for Umrah and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases outside China deepened fears of a pandemic.
The kingdom, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madina, welcomes millions of Muslim visitors throughout the year with a peak for Haj. It introduced a new tourism visa last October for 49 countries.
The ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It was unclear if Haj, which is scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted. Entry is also suspended for visits to Masjid-e-Nabvi in Madina.
Meanwhile, Emirates airline on Thursday said it would no longer carry Saudi Arabia passengers with Umrah pilgrimage visas or tourists from nearly two dozen countries until further notice, in compliance with a Saudi government directive to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Holders of Saudi tourist visas travelling from China, Japan, Italy, Iran, India, Pakistan and a number of other countries will be barred from boarding Emirates flights with Saudi Arabia as the final destination, the airline said on its website. The ban takes effect on Thursday. - Reuters