The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has suspended foreign travellers’ entry for Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the Novel Coronavirus (NCoV) has spread and is a threat. As of now entry to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina is also suspended.
Saudi Arabia, which houses the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, is said to welcome millions of Muslim visitors throughout the year with a peak for the Haj pilgrimage.
According to a ministry of foreign affairs statement, the suspensions were temporary, however no other information on the timeframe of when it would end has been mentioned neither has it been confirmed whether the Haj pilgrimage, scheduled for late July, will be affected in any way.
Saudi Press Agency has also stated that Saudi nationals and GCC citizens are also temporarily suspended from using national identity cards to travel to and from the kingdom.
The suspension does not include Saudi nationals, who are abroad and wish to return (having exited using the national identity card) and GCC citizens in the Kingdom who wish to travel out (having entered using the national identity card)
According to the agency report, the national identity card stipulation is for “the concerned authorities at the entry points to verify from which countries visitors came before their arrival to the Kingdom, and apply health precautions to deal with those coming from those countries.”
While Saudi Arabia does not have any cases of the coronavirus at the moment, cases of the Virus have steadily continued to rise in countries outside China, the epicentre of the outbreak, causing fears of a pandemic causing the Kingdom to take precautionary measures.
Since introducing the new tourist visa last year in October, the country has issued 400,000 visas and aims to attract 100 million annual visits in 2030.