Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended foreigners' entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases outside China deepened fears of a pandemic.
The kingdom, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, welcomes millions of Muslim visitors throughout the year with a peak for the haj pilgrimage. It introduced a new tourism visa last October for 49 countries.
The Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It was unclear whether the haj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted.
Meanwhile, in Israel, the Health Ministry urged citizens on Wednesday to reconsider foreign travel, citing the growing spread of the coronavirus outside the country.
The statement was issued shortly after the ministry instructed all Israeli travelers returning from Italy, where hundreds of new cases have been reported, to place themselves in quarantine at home for a 14-day period.
Expanding its precautionary steps, the ministry said it was also now urging the public "to reconsider the necessity of flights abroad in general, beyond the required isolation upon return from specific countries."
"The assessment is that there is a high probability the disease has already spread to other regions of Europe and many other places in the world," it said.
The ministry had already instructed Israelis returning from Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea to go into isolation at home for 14 days.
Two Israelis who returned home after being quarantined in Japan on the Diamond Princess cruise ship are the only confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel, and the ministry has readied quarantine facilities should more infections occur.
Sheba Medical Center, where the two are hospitalized reported on Thursday that one of the patients was tested negative for the virus.
However, the patient will have to pass a second test to ensure they have fully recovered.
Taiwan on Thursday raised its epidemic response level to the highest, official media reported, amid growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
Taiwan's Central News Agency said Premier Su Tseng-chang announced the decision in a cabinet meeting on Thursday, citing sporadic cases of community transmission on the island.
Taiwan has logged 32 cases of the coronavirus and one death and has largely suspended travel and tourism links with China to curb its spread.
U.S. President Donald Trump told Americans on Wednesday that the risk from coronavirus remained "very low," and placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the U.S. response to the looming global health crisis.
At a White House briefing, Trump defended his administration's handling of the crisis and said health experts were "ready, willing and able" to move quickly if the virus spreads.
Trump made his comments as public health officials warned Americans to prepare for more coronavirus cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an infection of the new coronavirus in California in someone who had not traveled outside the United States or been exposed to a person known to have the virus, a first for the country. How the person was infected was not known.
All the other 59 cases in the U.S. had traveled from abroad or had been in close contact with those who traveled. Health officials have been on high alert for the so-called community spread.