In a brave move by the Saudi government to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus COVID-19, they have temporarily suspended all travel to the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people while nearly 9,000 people are critically ill.
All pilgrims travelling on Umrah visas, tourist visas, and GCC ID cards will not be allowed into Makkah and Madinah. 7 Million pilgrims travel for Umrah every year. Concerns were raised that with so many nationalities travelling to the Muslim Qibla, it would become a centre for spreading the virus.
“We have been getting tens of phone calls from concerned pilgrims every day. We even contacted the Saudi authorities to see what steps were being taken. We were happy to see that they put the health and safety of pilgrims before all other considerations”Taiyab Raja, Co-Founder of Hujjaj.co (the Hajj and Umrah comparison website)
This move reflects prophetic guidance in Islam regarding diseases and plagues. The Prophet (saws) said:
“If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari 5728)
The only exceptions to the ban are for Saudis wishing to return home or GCC citizens who are in Saudi Arabia who wish to return to their country using the same ID cards they arrived with. Saudi Arabia also asked it’s citizens to not travel to any country where the virus has spread.
The Saudi Press Agency quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying “The Ministry affirms the keenness of the kingdom’s government through those authorities to implement the approved international standards and support the efforts of countries and international organisations, especially the World Health Organisation, to stop the spread of the virus, control it and eliminate it,”
“The kingdom affirms that these procedures are temporary, and subject to continuous evaluation by the competent authorities.”Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has banned all travellers from the worst hit countries to anywhere in the Kingdom. No announcement has yet been made regarding Hajj.