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.