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Published On: Wed, Mar 4th, 2020

Saudi Arabia suspends pilgrimages for Saudi citizens and residents

Riyadh(ANN)-Saudi Arabia, which has already suspended pilgrimages to the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina for foreigners due to coronavirus concerns, extended the ban on Wednesday to Saudi citizens and residents, state news agency SPA reported, Reuters reports.

Saudi Arabia reported its first case of the new coronavirus on Monday from an individual who had not disclosed his visit to Iran when entering Saudi Arabia.

“Based on the recommendations of the committee appointed to monitor coronavirus…it has been decided to suspend umrah for citizens and residents in the kingdom,” SPA said, citing an official source in the Saudi interior ministry.

Umrah refers to pilgrimage rites carried out in the holy cities throughout the year, and is separate from the annual week-long haj, which typically draws 2 million Muslims from around the world. Haj starts this year in late July.

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The decision will be reviewed regularly and reversed when the situation changes, SPA added.

Saudis and residents can still visit Mecca and Medina and pray there, provided they do not go for the purpose of umrah, deputy haj minister Abdulfattah Mashat told Al Arabiya TV on Wednesday.

“Mecca is still open to visitors from across the kingdom, the decision suspends only umrah activities,” he said.

Saudi Arabia last week halted umrah visas for foreigners and banned Gulf citizens from visiting the two cities because of the virus.

It also barred tourists from at least 25 countries where the virus has been found, and on Tuesday it limited arrivals of travelers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Pilgrimage is big business for Saudi Arabia and is the backbone of plans to develop tourism under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic reform agenda.

Visits by pilgrims accelerate during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, beginning this year in late April.

Source: Memo

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- #Arraale Mohamoud Jama is a freelance journalist and human rights activist with more than 20 years of experience as a professional journalist and human rights activist, as well as a writer and investigative journalist on a wide range of topics related to social issues, human rights, politics and security, economics, democracy, and good governance. He has written extensively on regional and international events, and has worked Somaliland newspapers, and Human rights organization. In 2008, he created the website #Araweelo #News #Network, and is based in Somaliland and is currently managing it; #Arraale is a specialist in investigating and reporting on human rights, democracy, security, and good governance issues. Contact: Info@araweelonews.com jaamac132@gmail.com Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 whatsapp.com/ + 252 63 442 5380 /https://twitter.com/Araweelonews/https://www.facebook.com/Araweelonews/

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