An Air Algeria flight to Jeddah scheduled for Thursday, February 27, 2020 was cancelled, according to Echorouk News.
This flight which should have taken off from Algiers airport at 11 am carrying some 288 Algerian citizens who were about to go to the Holy Places of Islam in Saudi Arabia to perform the rites of Umrah or small pilgrimage.
All other Air Algérie flights to the Holy Places of Islam were also cancelled.
This cancellation follows a decision taken by the Saudi authorities in a bid to contain the spread of the corona virus epidemic.
The epidemic has made more than 80 000 contaminations in the world and continues to progress outside China, indicated the last assessment of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Saudi Arabia “temporarily” suspends the entry into its territory of pilgrims going to Mecca for the Umrah, in order “to prevent the arrival of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in the kingdom and its spreading,” announced Thursday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary decision prevents foreigners from reaching the holy city of Makkah and the Kaaba, the cube shaped structure to which 1.8 billion Muslims around the world pray five times a day.
The decision also affected travel to the lofty Prophet Mohamed’s Mosque in Madinah. The Saudi authorities also suspended entry into the kingdom for those holding tourist visas from countries affected by the new virus.
The decision showed concern that the outbreak could spread to Saudi Arabia, whose oil-rich monarchy puts its legitimacy to protecting the holy places of Islam.
The epicenter of the most affected country in the Middle East, Iran, appears to be in the Shiite holy city of Qom, where respectful worshippers reach out to kiss and touch a famous shrine. Iran now has the highest number of deaths from the corona virus outside China, where the epidemic broke out.