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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia stops travel to Medina, Mecca

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IN carrying out a public health safety measure, Saudi Arabia has halted travels to Mecca and Medina, banning pilgrimage to the holy land, in the wake of Coronavirus also known as Covid19.

It was gathered that the decision, announced by the foreign ministry of the state on Thursday, was in effect to slow the spread of the deadly virus which has killed over 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 people in the world.

The Saudi government is “suspending entry to the kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque temporarily,” the announcement revealed.

Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage that can be performed at any time of year. With the recent ban, Muslim devotees would be prevented from accessing the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure which the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray towards five times a day.

The ban also affects visits to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina.

It is unclear if the restrictions will affect the 10-day Hajj set for late July into early August in 2020.

Although Saudi Arabia hasn’t recorded any case of Covid19, about 220 confirmed cases have been recorded in the Middle East and thus provides an avenue for concern.

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Saudi Arabia is not the only country carrying out a ban as a precautionary measure. Recently Iran, another country in the Middle East, banned Chinese citizens from entering the country.

As far as the outbreak of Covid19 is concerned, Iran has the highest number of infected persons outside China. It was gathered that the confirmed cases in the country have gone up to 245 and 15 deaths have been recorded.

Given the measure of the outbreak in Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also carried out safety measures by suspending all flights to and from the Islamic Republic.

Earlier, The ICIR also reported that in the past 48 hours, the deadly virus hit 11 new countries with four having confirmed cases.

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Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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