It’s a big decision by Saudi Arabia to shut the gates on millions of pilgrims but it’s a wise move to make the call now rather than risk the health of those planning to visit Mecca and Medina - the two holiest sites for Islamic people - for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia has suspended arrivals by foreign pilgrims and tourists just months before the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Pilgrims already in Saudi Arabia have been stranded in Jeddah and Madinah after the kingdom banned outbound and inbound flights as part of measures to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Indonesia's foreign minister Retno Marsudi has urged Saudi Arabia to reconsider the ban.
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.
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,
More than 7.5 million people performed the minor Umrah pilgrimage — which can be taken at any time of year — in the birthplace of Islam throughout 2019, according to official figures.
Saudi Arabia has suspended entry for nationalities holding tourist visas and coming from: Greater China, Iran, Italy, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Philippines, Singapore, India, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Vietnam.
“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,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not reported any coronavirus cases, but the other four Gulf Arab states have.
"Many Saudi Arabia-bound travellers in Asia found out about the ban only after arriving at their departure airports on Thursday.