Feb 27, 2020 - World

Saudi Arabia bans foreign pilgrims from visiting Mecca amid coronavirus fears

Muslim pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in Mecca. Photo: Abdulghani Basheer/AFP via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia announced Thursday that it is banning foreign pilgrims from entering the country to visit Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina due to the novel coronavirus, AP reports.

Why it matters: The unprecedented decision comes months ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage when millions of Muslims travel to the kingdom — and appears sparked in part by Iran's outbreak in the holy city of Qom. Saudi Arabia also said that it would suspend entry to tourists holding visas from 22 countries most affected by the virus.

Go deeper ... Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

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Oil prices plunge as market absorbs OPEC-Russia split

A Kuwaiti trader checks stock prices at Boursa Kuwait in Kuwait City, on March 8, 2020. Photo: Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP via Getty Images

Oil prices nosedived to four-year lows Sunday as trading resumed after Friday's collapse of the OPEC-Russia production-limiting pact, a rupture slated to increase supplies at a time when the novel coronavirus is sapping demand.

The state of play: The immediate 31% collapse when trading resumed last night was the second-largest on record behind the 1991 Gulf war, Bloomberg reports.

Trump tiptoes toward oil engagement

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The potential for new U.S. responses to the oil price collapse has seemingly grown — enough to send prices back upward, even though it's all inchoate and fluid right now.

Driving the news: President Trump says he's eyeing some kind of intervention in the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, telling reporters yesterday that he would get involved "at the appropriate time."

Iran's supreme leader refuses U.S. offer of coronavirus aid

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday refused assistance from the United States to help fight the coronavirus outbreak in his country, citing a conspiracy theory that accuses the U.S. military of developing and spreading the virus, AP reports.

Why it matters: Iran has reported more than 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,600 deaths, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. Its economy was already in free-fall mostly due to sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

Go deeperArrowMar 22, 2020 - World