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Saudi Arabia reopens Islamic holy sites after shocking coronavirus closure

Saudi Arabia reopened the Great Mosque after closing it because of the coronavirus [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 March, 2020

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After shocking the Muslim world by closing holy sites in Mecca and Medina as a precautionary measure against coronavirus, Saudi Arabia has now reopened them.
Saudi Arabia has reopened two holy Islamic sites on Friday after they were closed for sterilization amid coronavirus fears the previous day.

Saudi state television said that the Great Mosque of Mecca, the Muslim world's holiest site which includes the Ka'abah, and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina were now open again.

It was not yet clear when pilgrims would be allowed to visit the reopened sites.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia declared three new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of reported infections to five. Muslims across the world were shocked by images of the Great Mosque of Mecca empty of worshippers for the first time in living memory.

The kingdom on Wednesday halted the Umrah pilgrimage for its own citizens and residents.

Last week, authorities suspended visas for the Umrah and barred citizens from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council from entering Mecca and Medina.

The Umrah, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of year, attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe annually.

The decision to suspend the Umrah comes ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which starts in late April.

Ramadan is an especially favoured time to perform the Umrah, and millions of Muslims visit Mecca during the holy month.



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