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

  • 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.


This is the Palestinian artist behind the powerful portraits you’ve been seeing all over Instagram

Updated 12 min 25 sec ago

This is the Palestinian artist behind the powerful portraits you’ve been seeing all over Instagram

DUBAI: On February 23, a black American man named Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while on a run in his Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood. The unarmed 25-year-old was reportedly killed by  a former police officer and his son. 

Upon hearing about Arbery’s tragic death, 33-year-old freelance artist Shirien Darma sought to honor Arbery and show solidarity with the black community through her art. “I was afraid that people would only see the video and remember his soul being taken away from him,” the artist told Elle.com. “I wanted to not only have the art for myself to process, but also in the hopes that other people that are facing similar things can identify with it and help them process, too.”

The Palestinian-American artist went on to create a portrait of the deceased man against a moss green and floral backdrop with the words “Justice for Ahmaud” written above his head. The digital illustration, which she posted on social media, has garnered almost 400,000 likes since its time of posting, and has been widely shared on the platform.

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Yesterday, in yet another act of anti-black police violence causing mass outrage, George Floyd yelled “I can’t breathe” and pleaded for his life as a white Minneapolis police officer violently pinned him down with his knee on his neck. George died after. He was murdered in broad daylight. His death is reminiscent of the death of Eric Garner. Even with a crowd yelling at him to stop and while folks filmed the murder, the cop did it anyway, showing the massive injustice, zero accountability and white supremacy embedded in the “criminal justice” system. Heartbroken, angry and disgusted. This must end. Much love and solidarity to Black communities grieving another beautiful life lost. May George Floyd Rest in Power. Text ‘Floyd’ to 55156 to demand the officers be charged with murder. You can also call Mayor Jacob Frey at (612)-673-2100, DA Mike Freeman at (612)-348-5550 and demand justice. #blacklivesmatter #georgefloyd #icantbreathe #justiceforgeorgefloyd

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In the following weeks, she made similar digital portraits after the deaths of African-Americans Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, who were also killed at the hands of the police. Her illustration of Floyd was re-posted by several celebrities, including French-Tunisian model and singer Sonia Ben Ammar.

As the daughter of Palestinian Muslim immigrants, Damra is highly conscious of the issues of racism and oppression, so she makes sure to use her art as a tool to raise awareness. Damra’s Instagram account features art in support a variety of causes including Indigenous Peoples' Day, International Women's Day and coronavirus frontline workers.

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Our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, physician assistants, patient care techs and others who work in medicine are being stretched beyond the limit during this COVID-19 pandemic. They are working with limited masks, gloves, ventilators, test kits and hospital beds. They are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk to save ours. It’s our duty to care for them. The best and most effective way to do this is to stay quarantined and slow the spread of coronavirus so they can be able to take care of the sick and also take time to take care of themselves. Please stay home. Advocate for them to get their needs met. Sending prayers and good vibes to our homies on the frontlines defending us from collapse

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