Saudi Arabia has taken the unprecedented step of banning foreign pilgrims from entering the country five months before the annual hajj pilgrimages, while Japan will close its schools next week as countries around the world scramble to halt the spread of the coronavirus. So far, the virus has killed nearly 3,000 people and infected more than 82,000, prompting warnings that the world is fast approaching a “tipping point”. Saudi Arabia announced the ban late on Wednesday after more than 330 cases were confirmed around the Middle East, most of them in Iran. Authorities in Riyadh said the ban was temporary, but did not say how long it might last. The country has yet to report a case of the virus. “The kingdom’s government has decided to [suspend] entry to the kingdom for the purpose of umrah and visit to the prophet’s mosque temporarily,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement. It said tourist visas would be suspended “for those coming from countries in which the spread of the new coronavirus is a danger” and urged Saudi citizens not to travel to countries where the disease was proliferating. The umrah, which refers to the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can… Read full this story
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