Saudi Arabia Imposes Temporary Ban on Pilgrims, Tourists Amid COVID-19 Fears

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended the entry of pilgrims who are coming for the purpose of Umrah, as well as those who are planning to visit the Prophet’s Mosque.

Likewise, the Kingdom has also suspended the entry of tourist visa holders who are coming from countries where the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has been spreading rapidly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement on Thursday, 27th February 2020.

Saudi Arabia Suspends Entry of Pilgrims, Tourists into Kingdom

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, health authorities in the Kingdom have been closely monitoring the developments of COVID-19, the Saudi Gazette reported. The Ministry also affirmed the Saudi government’s support for international efforts to contain the virus, along with the commitment to implement approved global health standards on the matter.

Moreover, the Ministry stated that these latest measures have been implemented with the safety of citizens, residents, pilgrims, and visitors in mind.

“These precautions [are] based on the recommendations of the competent health authorities to apply the highest precautionary standards, and take proactive preventive measures to prevent the arrival of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) to the Kingdom and its spread,” the Ministry explained.

Meanwhile, authorities have also suspended the use of national identity cards by Saudi nationals and Gulf citizens when traveling to and from the Kingdom. This would help the said authorities to verify the countries where travelers came from before arriving in Saudi Arabia, and eventually to apply the necessary health precautions, if needed.

That being said, the Saudi government assured that these precautions are temporary and subject to continuing assessment by authorities. Just the same, the Foreign Ministry called on citizens to avoid traveling to countries where COVID-19 has been spreading.

Tourist Visas for Some Countries Suspended

Also on Thursday, the Ministry of Tourism announced that it has temporarily suspended the issuance of electronic tourist visas for travelers coming from China, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Similarly, the Ministry has also temporarily suspended previously issued tourist visas to citizens of the said countries. These decisions were made in coordination with health authorities in Saudi Arabia.

As for citizens of other countries that are previously permitted, the Ministry said that electronic tourist visas or visas-on-arrival will continue to be issued. However, they will not not be allowed to visit Makkah and Madinah.

Meanwhile, citizens of other countries that are not included in the electronic tourist visa may call the number 00966920000890 to verify if they can visit Saudi Arabia. The same goes for holders of American, British, and Schengen visas.

Notably, the Ministry reiterated that these measures are temporary, and that their goal is to provide utmost protection to citizens, residents, and tourists by preventing the arrival and possible spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom.

Aside from Saudi Arabia, governments all over the world are taking precautionary measures that can help contain as well as prevent the spread of COVID-19. Let us also do our part by practicing good hygiene, staying alert, and calling emergency hotlines and important numbers, in case the need arises.

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