The Middle East has recorded more than 220 confirmed coronavirus cases, and as a result, Saudi Arabia has announced it will halt the Hajj pilgrimage just months before those of the Islamic faith have prepared to visit the holy city of Mecca.
The Kaaba is located in Mecca, and this is the cube-shaped structure the world’s 1.8-billion Muslims pray to five times daily. Travel has also been suspended to Prophet Muhhammad’s mosque located in Medina.
The decision was made in light of concern of the outbreak spreading into Saudi Arabia. The Middle East’s most coronoavirus-affected country is Iran, which is the location of the holy city of Shia of Qom.
“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,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement. “We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.”
On Thursday, February 27, the Minister of Tourism in Indonesia urged Saudi Arabia to allow its citizens to continue their pilgrimage. Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country and it sends approximately one million people on the pilgrimage every year to the kingdom.
“The immediacy of this will impact our citizens because at the time of the announcement, there are Indonesian citizens or maybe citizens of other countries who have flown there,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said during a media briefing.