Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia suspends the pilgrimage to Mecca for fear of the coronavirus

Saudi authorities have temporarily banned the arrival of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Medina to practice Umrah, due to the risk of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The authorities of Saudi Arabia announced earlier this Thursday the temporary suspension of the entry of Muslim pilgrims to the country to make the minor pilgrimage to Mecca, called Umrah, for fear of the possible spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Umrah is a pilgrimage to the holy places of Islam, including Medina and Mecca, which is not mandatory for Muslims and unlike the major pilgrimage – the Hajj – can be done at any time of the year. The measure announced by the Saudi authorities affects both those who want to pilgrimage to the Kaaba, and those who plan to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina.

Almost a dozen countries in the Middle East region have reported cases of the outbreak of coronavirus that originated last December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and that to date has infected more than 82,000 people throughout the world and caused about 2,800 dead, the vast majority in China.

Iran is to date one of the countries most affected by the epidemic and has registered 139 cases of infection and 19 killed by the coronavirus, according to official figures; the virus has spread in a very short time to virtually all regions of the country, despite which the Iranian government is reluctant to take drastic quarantine measures.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to suspend the pilgrimage to Mecca responds precisely to the fact that many of the pilgrims who practice Umrah each year come in fact from Iran. In addition, all cases detected so far in other countries of the region correspond to infected Iranian citizens or people who had travelled to Iran.