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Japan closing schools, Saudi Arabia restricting travel to holy sites to prevent coronavirus spread

Posted at 7:13 AM, Feb 27, 2020

BANGKOK — Leaders puzzling over how to keep COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, from spreading are taking new steps around the globe to try to limit the illness' reach — including restricting access to holy sites.

Saudi Arabia announced Thursday that is suspending entry for the Umrah pilgrimage — a traditional pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims take throughout the year. Officials noted that the travel restrictions were "temporary," but did not provide a timetable for when they could be lifted.

Japan said Thursday that it would close all elementary, junior high, and high schools throughout the country in order to limit the potential spread of coronavirus. The decision to keep 12.8 million kids home from school comes as an eighth person has died of the virus.

Airports across Latin America have also begun looking for signs of sick passengers.

Some countries are warning people to obey containment measures, with Singapore prosecuting a couple it says lied about their movements and South Korea passing newly strengthened punishments for those violating self-isolation rules.

The virus keeps spreading to new places around the world, with the number of infected people hovering around 81,000.