CAIRO (Dispatches) – The Saudi ministry of tourism temporarily has suspended issuing electronic tourist visas for those coming from China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan, the Saudi news agency (SPA) reported.
The ministry also decided to temporarily suspend work on tourist visas previously issued to citizens of these countries, SPA added.
Meanwhile, it has temporarily suspended entry for individuals aiming to perform Umrah pilgrimage or to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina over concerns of the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tweeted early Thursday that the temporary suspension of Umrah is a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the new disease.
The Foreign Ministry said the decision is one of the three precautions taken by the Saudi government to "provide the utmost protections to the safety of citizens and residents and everyone who intends to come to the territory of the Kingdom to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque or for the purpose of tourism.”
Umrah, a lesser pilgrimage compared to the annual Hajj, involves a visit to Saudi Arabia where Islam’s holiest site Kaaba is located.
The new coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China. The number of confirmed cases has risen above 80,000.