Authorities in Saudi Arabia have suspended visas for pilgrims wishing to visit Mecca over the outbreak of the new coronavirus which has claimed many lives and has quickly spread across the world.
Saudi foreign ministry said on Thursday that the government is “suspending entry to the Kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque temporarily”, the foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of year.
The foreign ministry said it was also suspending visas for tourists visiting from countries where the new virus is a “danger”.
In a related development, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump has declared that his country is prepared for the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Trump who sought to calm nerves after health authorities got involved in dealing with 59 cases – mostly Americans repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan, said everything is being done to control the virus.
Speaking in a live broadcast, Trump said the US was “very, very ready” to face the virus threat and that Vice President Mike Pence would be in charge of the national response.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 239 passengers who had arrived at Nairobi international airport on Wednesday aboard a China Southern Airlines flight were cleared by Kenyan authorities amid rising fears over the spread of the virus.
Reports say all the passengers were screened on board and allowed to enter the country moments after the aircraft landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
The ministry of health said the passengers were advised to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution against the possible spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). This was the first time such a large number of passengers have been told to self-isolate.
In a related development, Algeria on Wednesday became the second country in Africa to confirm a coronavirus case after Egypt. The country’s health ministry said the patient arrived from Italy on 17 February.