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Saudi Arabia bans foreign pilgrims from holy sites in unprecedented move

SAUDI ARABIA banned foreigners from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites amid the coronavirus outbreak yesterday, ahead of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The ban, which will stop pilgrims from entering Mecca and Medina, is unprecedented in modern history.

But Saudi officials who oversee the sites fear a similar situation to that in Iran, where coronavirus has caused 26 deaths out of 245 cases and the numbers are expected to rise.

There, the epicentre of the virus is the holy city of Qom, where people reach out and kiss a shrine in an expression of faith.

It has remained open despite calls from Iran’s civilian government for its closure.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Riyadh said: “Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus and urges its citizens to exercise caution before travelling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks.

“We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.”

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