Saudi Arabia has suspended visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears

The kingdom, which hosts millions of pilgrims every year in the cities of Mecca and Medina, also suspended visas for tourists from countries with reported infections as fears of a pandemic deepen.

Saudi Arabia, which so far has reported no cases of the virus but has expressed alarm over its spread in neighboring countries, said the suspensions were temporary. It provided no time frame for when they will be lifted.

It is not clear if the Hajj pilgrimage, which begins in July this year, will be affected.

Non-religious tourists from virus-affected countries are also being barred from the country.

Several European countries have announced new cases, traced to Italy,as Italy now has 400 cases which is a 25% surge in a day.

Globally, more than 80,000 people in about 40 countries have been infected.

Cases and deaths are also up in China, although mainly in Hubei.