Saudi urges Umrah pilgrims to request refunds over coronavirus ban

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has told Umrah pilgrims who’ve already paid for pilgrimage visas and other services to request a refund after the country banned pilgrimages from abroad due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The refunds can be made electronically through Umrah agents in the pilgrims’ respective countries.

The ministry added that pilgrims who have any related inquiries could contact the ministry’s care centre at the toll-free number: (00966920002814) or via the official mail of the ministry: (mohcc@Hajj.gov.sa).

Saudi Arabia has placed a temporary ban on foreign Umrah pilgrims in an attempt to ensure public safety and prevent the spread of coronavirus. Officials have stressed that the restrictions are temporary and will be continuously reviewed by the health authorities.

Visits to Masjid Nabawi in Madinah has also been halted, according to the recent ban.

Tourist-visa holders from countries judged to pose a particularly high risk of spreading the virus will also be denied entry, the ministry said.

Pilgrimage is big business for Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, and is the backbone of plans to expand visitor numbers under an ambitious economic reform agenda.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced its first case of coronavirus on Monday – a Saudi national returning from Iran through Bahrain, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said on its official Twitter account that the individual, who is in quarantine in hospital, had not disclosed his visit to Iran when entering Saudi Arabia.

Iran has reported the most deaths from the coronavirus outside China, where the flu-like disease originated. Other Gulf Arab states have diagnosed the infection in several people who had visited Iran.

The Health Ministry said on Sunday it had prepared 25 hospitals to handle any coronavirus infections, with 2,200 beds dedicated for quarantine cases.

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