Hyderabad: As a precautionary measure against Coronavirus, Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended Umrah visit visa for 25 nationalities, including Indians. The foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced this on February 27.

No visa will be issued to nationals of China, Tapei, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Macao, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines, Singapore, India, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen , Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Somalia and Vietnam.

The citizens of Saudi Arabia who left the kingdom using their national identity cards can come back to Saudi showing the same. Similarly citizens from Gulf co-operation council (GCC) wishing to return from Saudi Arabia after entering using their national ID cards, can leave without Visa.

From today the Saudi Arabians and GCC citizens will not be able to use their identity cards to travel to and from the kingdom, until further notice. The ministry said the measure is taken based on the recommendation of Health authorities.

Iran in the Middle East is the worst hit country with 139 cases of corona virus and 19 deaths.

Umrah pilgrims in Hyderabad disappointed as Saudi Arabia temporarily suspends pilgrimage

A large number of pilgrims heading to Makkah in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah (the minor pilgrimage) were left high and dry at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here as the Saudi Arabian government announced cancellation of the pilgrimage in the wake of the corona virus threat. Nearly 200 pilgrims draping white ‘ihram’ (the two-piece unstitched clothe) had to return back to their homes disappointed with the authorities declaring that Umrah pilgrimage was being cancelled till ‘further orders’ as a precautionary measure.

The pilgrims were mostly from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Mehboobnagar, Gulbarga and Kurnool. They were travelling through private tour operators such as Al Hira, Bismillah Tours and Travels, Al Azam Travels, Al Ameen besides Oman Airlines, Etihad Airlines and Emirates .

According to a Saudi Airline official, both Umrah visa and visit visa to Saudi Arabia has been suspended temporarily for all nationalities from Wednesday. Tourism visa has also been suspended for all passengers and Airline crew coming from countries like China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong (SAR China), Iran, Italy, Korea, Macao, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines, Singapore, India, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Somalia and Vietnam.

Passengers who travelled to or from Saudi Arabia by using the national ID before the announcement would be permitted to return to their home country by using the national ID, it is said. These extraordinary measures were being taken on the recommendations of the competent health authorities to prevent the spread of corona virus in Saudi Arabia.

“Till last evening many pilgrims left for Umrah. The Saudi Arabian embassy visa was open till 11 a.m today. Authorities ought to have made the announcement earlier as pilgrims who came to the airport were disappointed”, said Habeeb Quli of Hyderabad based Bismillah Tours and Travels. His travel agency has been issued 200 Umrah visas. Similar views were expressed by Siraj Khan of Al Azam Travels. He was taking early 100 pilgrims for Umrah.

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