RIYADH – Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended foreigners’ entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases outside China deepened fears of a pandemic.
The kingdom, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, welcomes millions of Muslim visitors throughout the year with a peak for the haj pilgrimage. It introduced a new tourism visa last October for 49 countries.
Entry is also suspended for visits to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
Saudi Arabia has had no causes of the coronavirus but it has been spreading in some neighboring countries.
The ministry did not specify people from which countries would be impacted but said the Kingdom’s health authorities would determine where the outbreak constituted a danger.
Saudi Arabia’s top tourism official said this week 400,000 tourist visas had been issued since their launch in October and the country aims to attract 100 million annual visits in 2030.
The number of new coronavirus infections inside China – the source of the outbreak – was for the first time overtaken by new cases elsewhere on Wednesday, with Italy and Iran emerging as epicenters of the rapidly spreading illness.
Asia reported hundreds of new cases, Brazil confirmed Latina America’s first infection and the new disease – COVID-19 – was also detected for the first time in Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Romania and Algeria.
U.S. health authorities, managing 59 cases – mostly American repatriated from a cruise ship in Japan – have said a global pandemic is likely. President Donald Trump told Americans on Wednesday that the risk remained ‘very low’, and placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the U.S. response.
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VATICAN – Pope Francis said on Sunday he was hurt by Turkey’s decision to make Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum a mosque, the latest religious leader to condemn the move. ‘My thoughts go to Istanbul. I think of Santa Sophia and I am very pained’, he said during his weekly blessing in St.Peter’s Square. Turkish President … Continue reading WORLD NEWS | Pope ‘Very Pained’ By Decision To Turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Museum Into Mosque
RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – Saudi Arabia’s largest telecoms operator Saudi Telecom CO said on Sunday it would need another two months to complete the purchase of Vodafone Group’s 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt. STC signed a non-binding agreement in January to buy the majority stake for $2.4 billion, but extended the process in April … Continue reading BUSINESS | Saudi Telecom Extends Vodafone Egypt Stake Purchase For Second Time
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RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman sent messages of condolences on Friday to the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the death of Sheikh Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, deputy ruler of the emirate of Sharjah. ‘(We) ask God Almighty to bless him with … Continue reading NEWS | Saudi King, Crown Prince Send Condolences To UAE Leaders On Death Of Sharjah Official
WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department on Friday said it ‘was disappointed’ by the government of Turkey’s decision to change the status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declared the ancient monument a mosque again. ‘We understand the Turkish Government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, … Continue reading NEWS | U.S. State Department ‘Disappointed’ In Turkish Government Decision On Hagia Sophia
ISTANBUL – President Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on Friday opening Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia as a mosque after a Turkish court annulled a 1934 government decree that had turned it into a museum, a copy of the decision showed. Erdogan shared on his Twitter feed a copy of the decree he had signed which said … Continue reading NEWS | Turkey’s Erdogan Signs Decree Converting Hagia Sophia Into Mosque
BUCHAREST | ROMANIA – The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday said it regretted that a Turkish court did not take its concern into account when ruling that Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia being a museum was unlawful, the TASS news agency reported. It said the decision could lead to even greater division. A Turkish court said on … Continue reading NEWS | Russian Orthodox Church Says Regrets Decision Over Hagias Sophia – TASS
MILAN | ITALY – Italy on Thursday banned entry to people coming from 13 countries that it said presented an excessive rate of COVID-19 infections. The list compiled by the health ministry comprises Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Kuwait, North Macedonia, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Peru and Dominican Republic. The ban affects anyone … Continue reading TRAVEL | Italy Bans Entry From 13 Countries Due To Coronavirus Fears
RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense made Thursday a telephone call to His Excellency President Jair Messias Bolsonaro of Brazil. During the phone conversation, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was reassured of the health of the Brazilian President, … Continue reading NEWS ALERT | Saudi Crown Prince Makes Phone Call To Brazilian President
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LONDON – Meghan Markle asked a British court to order a newspaper to refrain from publishing the names of five friends who previously defended her in a U.S. magazine on the condition of anonymity. The Duchess of Sussex made the request in a witness statement for her lawsuit against the Daily Mail and its parent … Continue reading ROYALS | Meghan Markle Asks British Court To Prevent Newspaper From Revealing Identities Of Friends Who Defender Her
BUCHAREST | ROMANIA – The Kremlin said on Thursday Russia currently had no plans to hold talks with Saudi Arabia ahead of joint OPEC+ ministerial monitoring committee due to be held next week.
RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it destroyed two explosive –laden boasts in the red Sea, Saudi State TV reported on Thursday. The two remotely controlled boats were threatening navigation, the coalition said. They were destroyed south of the Yemeni port of Salif it … Continue reading NEWS ALERT | Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says explosive boats destroyed in Red Sea – Saudi TV
MILAN | ITALY – More than 170 nonprofit groups on Wednesday called for Johnson & Johnson to stop selling its talc-based Johnson’s Baby Powder world-wide, citing concerns that is contains cancer-causing asbestos, according to a statement from advocacy group Black Women for Wellness. The groups, which include educational institutions such as Emory University and activist … Continue reading HEALTH | Nonprofits Urge Johnson & Johnson To Halt Sales Of Baby Powder Globally
LONDON – The coronavirus crisis will cost banks across the world a combined $2.1 trillion in losses on loans by the end of next year, credit ratings agency S&P Global estimated on Thursday. This year is expected to see a $1.3 trillion hit, more than double the 2019 level, S&P predicted. Around 60% of the … Continue reading BUSINESS NEWS | Coronavirus Will Cost Banks Over $2 Trillion In Loan Losses: S&P Global
MILAN – Facebook Inc on Wednesday removed 50 personal and professional pages connected to U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, who is due to report to prison next week. The social media platform said Stone and his associates, including a prominent supporter of the right-wing Proud Boys group in Stone’s home state Florida, … Continue reading SOCIAL MEDIA | Facebook Takes Down Accounts And Pages Of Trump Ally Roger Stone
BUCHAREST | ROMANIA – Facebook Inc on Wednesday suspended a network of social media accounts it said were used to spread divisive political messages online by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons. The company said that despite efforts to disguise who was behind the activity, it found links to staff … Continue reading SOCIAL MEDIA | Facebook Suspends Disinformation Network Tied To Staff Of Brazil’s Bolsonaro
RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had complete the first batch of its flour milling sector privatization, according to a statement by the state grain buyer and privatization centre. The long-awaited flour mills sale was one of the first privatisations the kingdom planned as part of a wide-reaching overhaul of … Continue reading BUSINESS NEWS | Saudi Arabia Completes First Phase Of State Mills Privatisation
GENEVA – Saudi Arabia nominated a former economy and planning minister to head the World Trade Organization on Wednesday, a WTO document showed, amid a last –minute flurry of submission to succeed the incumbent Roberto Azevedo who is stepping down in August. ‘The following communication, nominating Mr. Mohammad Mazid Al-Tuwaijri for the position of Director-General, … Continue reading BUSINESS NEWS | Saudi Arabia Nominates Candidate To Bead WTO: Document
BUCHAREST | ROMANIA – Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he said in a television interview on Tuesday.
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RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – Unemployment among citizens in the first quarter fell below 12% for the first time in four years, official figures released on Tuesday showed, but they did not capture the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Unemployment fell to 11.8% from 12% the previous quarter, the General Authority for Statistics said. ‘Data … Continue reading BUSINESS NEWS | Saudi Unemployment Falls In First Quarter, But Before Coronavirus Impact
NEW YORK – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is ‘certainly looking at’ banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied. ‘I don’t want to get out in front of President (Donald Trump), but it’s something we’re looking … Continue reading SOCIAL MEDIA | Pompeo Says U.S. Looking At Banning Chinese Social Media Apps, Including TikTok
JEDDAH | SAUDI ARABIA – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Qatar exceeded 100,000 and Kuwait surpassed 50,000 on Monday, their health ministries said. Qatar, which has seen its daily numbers fall from a peak of 2,355 in late May, added 546 new cases and five deaths in the past 24 hours to give … Continue reading CORONAVIRUS | Qatar Coronavirus Exceed 100,000, Kuwait Tops 50,000
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