Travellers from every country with confirmed coronavirus cases will be banned from taking the Umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia said it has suspended arrivals of nationals from 24 countries with coronavirus cases, which leaves a question mark over whether the main Haj pilgrimage will be impacted.
About seven million non-Saudis undertake the Umrah ‘minor Haj’ annually, which is available year-round unlike the main Haj pilgrimage.
The numbers of Umrah pilgrims normally ramp up ahead of the month of Ramadhan which is less than two months away.
Saudi Arabia hasn’t reported any coronavirus cases yet but all other Gulf States except Qatar have.
“Protecting the pilgrims and the sacred sites from the arrival of this disease is very important,” health ministry spokesman Mohammed Abdelali said.
“Saudi Arabia feels a sense of responsibility, therefore we took these temporary decisions which will constantly be reviewed.”
It could impact the week-long Haj which attracts more than two million pilgrims.
So far there has been more than 80,000 people infected with the virus and more than 2,800 deaths, mostly in China.