Saudi Arabia Halts Travel to Mecca to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Saudi Arabia on Thursday halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over fears about a new viral epidemic just months ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage, a move coming as the Middle East has over 220 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The extraordinary decision by Saudi Arabia stops foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day. It also said travel was suspended to Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina.

The decision showed the worry about the outbreak potentially spreading into Saudi Arabia, whose oil-rich monarchy stakes its legitimacy on protecting Islam’s holy sites. 

The epicentre in the Middle East’s most-affected country, Iran, appears to be in the holy Shiite city of Qom, where a shrine there sees the faithful reach out to kiss and touch it in reverence.

Source: https://www.scmp.com/news/world/middle-east/article/3052626/coronavirus-saudi-arabia-halts-travel-islams-holiest-site

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