Muslim pilgrims wearing a mask leave after the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on Oct. 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Fayez Nureldine–AFP/Getty Images
February 26, 2020 11:33 PM EST

Saudi Arabia temporarily halted religious visits that include stops in Mecca and Medina, which draw millions of people a year as the Islamic world’s holiest cities, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus into the country.

Tourism visa-holders from countries with reported coronavirus infections will also be denied entry, the Saudi embassy in Washington said in an emailed statement, without naming any countries. The steps are temporary and subject to continuous evaluation, according to the statement.

Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter by clicking on this link, and please send any tips, leads, and stories to virus@time.com.

The government is acting to block the deadly virus as neighboring countries including Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates have flagged dozens of cases. No infections had been reported by Saudi Arabian authorities as of Wednesday.

The kingdom is also suspending entry by citizens from Gulf States traveling under their national IDs, as well as travel by Saudis to the Gulf States. Saudis abroad who want to return or Gulf citizens in Saudi Arabia who wish to leave may do so, according to the statement.

Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet Mohammad, is home to Islam’s holiest shrine inside the Grand Mosque. Medina is where Islam’s founder is buried.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories

EDIT POST