Thursday, 27 February 2020

Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia suspends visas for pilgrims

Thousands of Nigerians are set to be affected as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has suspended visas for pilgrims wishing to

visit Mecca.

The move was part of attempts to curb the spread of Coronavirus, AFP reports.

The foreign ministry said on Thursday it suspended entry to the Kingdom for the purpose of Umrah (lesser hajj) and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque temporarily.

It said it was also suspending visas for tourists from countries where the new virus is a “danger”.

Even as the number of fresh cases declines at the epicenter of the disease in China, there has been a sudden increase in parts of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Iran has emerged as a major hotspot in the region, where 15 people have succumbed to the disease — officially known as COVID-19.

The Gulf states of Kuwait and Bahrain have also announced additional cases this week.

The PUNCH reports that in 2019, no fewer than 65, 000 Nigerians performed the hajj.

While the Federal Government budgeted over N500m for pilgrimage in 2020, state governments are believed to spend more on sponsoring persons for hajj.

The temporary visa ban only affects those planning to go for the lesser hajj for now. The hajj itself is expected to take place in July.

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