Amid the rising global threat from the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has made a move on Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, to tighten its borders.
Having one confirmed case of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has barred travelers from other GCC countries from entering the Kingdom for 14 days after returning from places with cases of the virus. The said travelers should spend 14 days in their country and show no symptoms.
KSA Imposes Travel Restrictions on GCC Citizens & Residents
The move requires GCC citizens and residents, including Saudi nationals, to inform authorities about any travel outside the Gulf for the past 14 days. Those who are traveling by land, including the Bahrain causeway, will undergo screening.
On Monday, 2nd March, Saudi Arabia confirmed its first COVID-19 case, a Saudi national who had traveled from Iran via Bahrain’s King Fahad Causeway. Iran has one of the highest cases of COVID-19 outside mainland China, where the coronavirus originated.
According to a spokesman from the Saudi Ministry of Health, the patient is in stable condition and currently being monitored. Meanwhile, 70 people who had come into contact with the patient have been placed under quarantine.
As a result, civil aviation authorities have increased precautionary measures at airports and on Saudia (Saudi Arabian Airlines). The airlines is providing masks, anti-bacterial wipes, and cleansing kits to its crew and passengers. Likewise, medical teams have been examining travelers from areas with high COVID-19 cases, and aircraft are being sterilized and deep cleaned.
Coronavirus Cases in the Gulf and Worldwide
As of this writing, there have been around 2,500 cases of COVID-19 in the Gulf, majority of which have been linked to Iran. Authorities in Tehran, Iran have reported 2,336 confirmed cases and 77 deaths — placing the country among those with the highest number of fatalities outside mainland China, along with South Korea and Italy.
In the UAE, a total of 21 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed. Meanwhile, several major events have been canceled, including: an international yoga festival, the Ultra electronic music festival, and the 2020 World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi; along with the Art Dubai fair, the Music Bank K-pop concert, and a Hindu Holi festival in Dubai.
In Muscat, Oman, authorities have canceled the Oman Petroleum & Energy Show as well as a defense exhibition. Qatar has also canceled a defense exhibition, while Bahrain has postponed a couple of oil and gas conferences. Similarly, Kuwait has postponed the regional GCC games, closed its zoo, and imposed a ban on shisha.
In the United States, where there are 91 confirmed cases and nine deaths, there are widespread fears about the economic effects of COVID-19, with its central bank stating that the virus poses risks to the country’s economic activity.
At present, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 90,000 people and caused around 3,100 deaths in 77 countries worldwide. Although majority of these cases are from China, the virus continues to spread in numerous countries across almost all continents.
Despite having just one confirmed case, Saudi Arabia has been implementing strict measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 — measures that are, indeed, necessary — at this time. Aside from restricting the entry of GCC citizens and residents, the Kingdom has also imposed a temporary ban on pilgrims and tourists recently.