Two holy sites of Islam in Saudi Arabia, the Prophet’s Mosque in the city of Medina and the Great Mosque of Mecca will stay closed during the fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on April 23, due to precautionary steps to combat COVID-19, the country’s General Directorate anounced.

“According to recommendations of the competent authorities, the attendance of [the two holy mosques] for five-times-a-day prayers and the Tarawih [prayer performed only during the Ramadan month] is suspended for worshipers in order to protect people’s health”, the directorate said on Monday.

On April 17, the country’s grand mufti, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, said that Ramadan’s prayers could only be performed at home due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.

Earlier in the month, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah ministry asked Muslim travellers all over the world to refrain from visiting the kingdom for Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

Prior to that, the main holy sites were closed for visitors, as procedures for complete disinfection were carried out to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In March, the Saudi religious authorities banned prayers in mosques, including weekly Friday prayer, following restrictions issued by the country’s government.

To date, the Saudi health authorities have registered 10,484 coronavirus cases and 103 related deaths in the country since the beginning of the pandemic.