Saudi Arabia authorities has announced the suspension visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for the “umrah” pilgrimage, due to unprecedented rise in cases of coronavirus
Saudi Arabia, which so far has reported any cases of the virus but has expressed alarm over its spread in neighbouring countries, said the suspensions were temporary. It provided no time frame for when they will be lifted.
The foreign ministry said in a statement “The kingdom’s government has decided to take the following precautions: suspending entry to the kingdom for the purpose of umrah and visit to the Prophet’s mosque temporarily. “Suspending entry into the kingdom with tourist visas for those coming from countries, in which the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is a danger.”
The kingdom, which hosts millions of pilgrims every year in the cities of Mecca and Medina, also suspended visas for tourists from countries with reported infections as fears of a pandemic deepen. Gulf countries have already announced a raft of measures, including flight suspensions and school closures, to curb the spread of the disease from people returning from pilgrimages to Iran.
One of the doubts about Saudi Arabia’s pilgrimage ban is whether it will be there until July and August, when Hajj takes place.
But Umrah pilgrimages go on all year round – and it is certain that thousands of Pakistanis will have to drop or reschedule their plans.
However, the ban doesn’t seem to have come as a shock, but it will impact on revenue generation for Saudi government statistics recently published shows that Pakistanis have been on top in terms of numbers performing Umrah over the past two years, followed by Indonesia and India.
As many as 2.1 million Pakistanis performed Umrah in 2019, while the number for 2018 was 1.7 million. The total number for January to June 2019 was 1.6 million – an average of more than 8,900 people a day.
It is not clear if the Hajj pilgrimage, which begins in July this year, will be affected
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