Jakarta (ANTARA) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) respects the Saudi Arabian government’s decision to temporarily halt “Umrah” pilgrimage services from outside the country amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

In Jakarta on Thursday, the president expressed respect to Saudi Arabia's decision to prioritize its citizens' health and safety amid the spread of the coronavirus that continues to lead to rising number of casualties.

"We respect (the decision), as the Saudi Arabian government is prioritizing health," President Jokowi stated.

Jokowi said he received information in connection with the temporary ban, on Wednesday (Feb 27). He explained that the suspension of Umrah pilgrimage services is not only for Indonesia but also applies to all countries.

"They want to protect their citizens from the coronavirus. We highly respect that," he stated.

Saudi Arabia, where the Islamic Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina are located, is a destination for Muslims from across the world keen to perform Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

According to a report released by the United Nations' World Health Organization as of February 25, 2020, globally, there are 81,109 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with the addition of 871 new cases, including 459 new cases in 37 countries outside China and 412 new cases in China.

Among the countries reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases are nations with Muslim-majority populations, including the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Oman, Egypt, and India.

In view of the increasingly widespread outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of Saudi Arabia has officially temporarily suspended Umrah pilgrimage services for residents from outside the kingdom.

"The entry of non-Saudis into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the purpose of Umrah and other visits has been suspended as well as the temporary suspension of visa issuance," Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Umrah Affairs of Saudi Arabia Abdulaziz bin Wazzan noted in a statement from the Saudi Arabian Hajj Ministry.

"The ministry has also confirmed Umrah companies and foreign agents to cancel bookings since the time of this announcement until further notice," Abdulaziz stated.

He explained that the policy was adopted as part of the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to stave off the entry of COVID-19.

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Translator: Indra Arief Pribadi/Aria Cindy
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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