Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

A police officer wears a face mask to prevent contracting coronavirus as Muslim pilgrims pray near the Kaaba in the Grand mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 27, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 February 2020

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

  • Emirates will not allow Umrah pilgrims or tourists from nearly two dozen countries to fly to the Kingdom
  • Health ministry says no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims in an attempt to ensure public safety by preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Most foreign pilgrims often visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before or after the completion of their religious duties in Makkah, this has also been halted.

It is one of a number of precautionary restrictions announced early on Thursday as health authorities in the Kingdom closely monitor the spread of the virus. Tourist-visa holders from countries judged to pose a particularly high risk of spreading the virus will also be denied entry.

The Saudi health ministry said again on Thursday that there were ‘no known cases’ in the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said it supports Saudi Arabia’s actions to protect pilgrims and visitors from coronavirus.

The Egyptian Dar Al-Iftaa also said Saudi Arabia’s decision to temporarily suspend Umrah visas over the coronavirus outbreak was in accordance with Sharia law.

The suspension of Umrah visas due to the coronavirus outbreak preserves the lives of pilgrims, it said.

Indonesia on Thusday said they asked the Kingdom to allow its citizens to continue their Umrah pilgrimage, with hundreds of pilgrims stranded at Jakarta airport following the temporary ban.

Later in the day, Dubai's Emirates said it would no longer carry to Saudi Arabia passengers with Umrah pilgrimage visas or tourists from nearly two dozen countries starting Thursday, until further notice.

In addition, Saudi nationals and citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council nations will not be able to use a national identity card to travel to and from the Kingdom for the time being. Exceptions to this shall be granted to Saudis returning home, and citizens of GCC countries who are in the Kingdom and want to return to their home countries, provided that they left or entered the Kingdom using a national identity card.

Health authorities at entry points will verify which countries travelers visited before arriving in Saudi Arabia and apply all necessary precautionary measures.

Saudi officials stressed that the restrictions are temporary and will be continuously reviewed by the health authorities. They reiterated the Kingdom’s support for and implementation of international efforts to limit the spread of the virus, and the Foreign Ministry urged citizens not to travel to the countries worst affected by the coronavirus.

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Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.

Earlier, it emerged that seven Saudis are among the latest coronavirus cases in Bahrain and Kuwait. The Bahraini Ministry of Health on Wednesday said six Saudi women has tested positive for the virus.

They had arrived at Bahrain International Airport on a flight from Iran. The total number of confirmed cases in the country stands at 26. Studies at schools and universities have been suspended for two weeks in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

Kuwait announced the first case of a Saudi citizen infected by the virus. The man, who had arrived in the country from the Iranian city of Mashhad, has been placed in quarantine for 14 days. There have been 26 confirmed cases of the virus to date in Kuwait.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has been providing neighboring Arab countries with advice and guidelines for controlling infectious diseases such as the coronavirus and dealing with health emergencies.

Dr. Hani bin Abdul Aziz Jokhdar, the deputy minister of public health, said that the guidelines were based on Saudi Arabia’s experience of protecting the health and well-being of pilgrims during Hajj season.

He led the Kingdom’s delegation at a meeting of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Ministers for Health on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.


Saudi Arabia pledges $500m of aid to Yemen

Updated 02 June 2020

Saudi Arabia pledges $500m of aid to Yemen

  • $300 million will go to UN agencies and $200 million to KSrelief.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million of support to Yemen on Tuesday as the Kingdom hosted a major international donor conference.

The money will go toward the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2020 and COVID-19 Response plan, Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), said.

He said of the Saudi pledge, $300 million would go to UN agencies working in Yemen and $200 million would be allocated to KSRelief.

“We are meeting today amid the conditions the world is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the economic, health and political challenges that it has caused,” Al-Rabeeah told the virtual conference. “Yemen is facing many difficult humanitarian and health challenges, and the Yemeni people are suffering from multiple crises caused by Iran-backed Houthi militias.”

He said the Houthis, who seized the capital Sanaa in 201, sparking the conflict, “do not consider epidemics.”

The Houthis had deprived the Yemeni people of their most basic human rights “by looting and stealing humanitarian aid and using it for miliary purposes.,” Al-Rabeeah added.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said the Kingdom supported all the efforts by the UN to reach a political solution in Yemen “and to lift the suffering of the Yemeni people.”

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia positively believe in mobilizing global efforts to address the situation in Yemen and alleviating the suffering of the Yemeni people and fulfil the country’s aspirations for a better future,” he said.