Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears
Pilgrims from different countries arriving in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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Updated 27 February 2020

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears
  • Restrictions are temporary and will be continuously reviewed by the health authorities
  • Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year

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.

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.


Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup
Arsenal’s midfielder Thomas Partey vies with Southampton’s midfielders Stuart Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse during Saturday’s match. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup

Southampton dump holders Arsenal out of FA Cup
  • Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe

SOUTHAMPTON: Southampton dumped FA Cup holders Arsenal out of the competition on Saturday, winning 1-0 courtesy of a Gabriel own goal to set up a fifth-round meeting with Wolves.
The much-changed Gunners, who have won the competition a record 14 times, fell behind midway through the first half and could not find a way back.
Ralph Hasenhuttl fielded a strong side at St. Mary’s, with Danny Ings returning after a hamstring injury and a positive coronavirus test alongside former Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.
Mikel Arteta made seven changes from their 3-0 Premier League win against Newcastle on Monday.
Southampton, who had never previously beaten Arsenal in the FA Cup, were the brighter team in the first half in the winter sunshine on England’s south coast.
James Ward-Prowse rattled the crossbar from a swerving corner and Che Adams forced a fine save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Southampton got the reward their positive approach deserved in the 24th minute.
Mohamed Elneny gave away possession on the edge of his own box and the ball was worked to Kyle Walker-Peters on the right side of the Southampton attack.
The defender drilled it across the six-yard area and it was inadvertently turned in by Gabriel — the first time rejuvenated Arsenal had conceded since December 26 against Chelsea.
Ward-Prowse then struck a shot from distance that sailed wide and Ings hit a fierce volley that was blocked by Hector Bellerin.
Arsenal found their feet in the second half and Fraser Forster was forced to make a sharp save with his feet to keep out Eddie Nketiah’s deflected shot after a pass from Nicolas Pepe.
Arteta threw on forward Alexandre Lacazette to bolster his attack as Arsenal pinned Southampton back.
Lacazette was inches away from getting on the end of a teasing cross by fellow substitute Bukayo Saka as the minutes ticked away but Arsenal could not find an equalizer.
The exit will be a bitter disappointment for Arsenal, who have won the FA Cup four times in the past seven seasons — in sharp contrast to their toils in the Premier League.
Arteta’s side will return to Southampton for a league meeting on Tuesday, aiming to continue their fine recent run that has lifted them to 10th in the table.