In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended travel to and from nine countries.
As of Monday, 9th March 2020, travel to and from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been temporarily suspended, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Official source at Ministry of Interior: Citizens and residents’ travel to and from number of countries temporarily suspended to control, limit spread of “Corona” virus.https://t.co/Qin1Uc4OMU#SPAGOV
— SPAENG (@Spa_Eng) March 8, 2020
KSA Suspends Travel to 9 Countries Amid COVID-19 Fears
On Sunday, 8th March 2020, four new COVID-19 cases were reported, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 11. All of the new cases are in Qatif Province, which has been placed under lock down. For now, entry and exit to the region is barred to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The rising number of confirmed cases in the Kingdom has prompted Saudi authorities to impose travel restrictions, school suspensions, and postponement of major events.
The latest travel suspension applies to people coming from the said countries, including those who were there within the last 14 days before arrival in the Kingdom. In addition, air and sea flights between Saudi Arabia and the said countries have also been suspended for the time being.
However, the following cases are exempted from the travel suspension:
- Evacuation trips, shipping, and trade trips taken with necessary precautions; and
- Humanitarian and exceptional cases that must be coordinated through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior.
Suspension of Schools
Also starting on Monday, schools and higher education institutions shall be closed until further notice, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
According to the Ministry of Education, the temporary suspension was recommended by health authorities to help protect students and staff in the Kingdom. The suspension covers public schools, private schools, technical and vocational training institutions, and universities.
The Minister of Education, Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh, stated that the decision was a precautionary measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus. He also mentioned that the Ministry is making daily and weekly assessments before school operations can start again.
“The Minister of Education directed that virtual schools and distance education be activated while the schools are closed to ensure that the educational process continues in an effective and quality manner,” the Ministry added.
Saudi Games Postponed
Aside from travel and school suspensions, the Kingdom has also postponed the Saudi Games, the largest sports event in the country. The announcement was made on Sunday through Al-Arabiya TV station, which cited the games’ organising committee.
The Saudi Games was scheduled to run from 23rd March to 1st April 2020, with more than 6,000 athletes — both male and female — from Saudi Arabia’s 13 regions expected to participate.
Meanwhile, Riyadh Boulevard and Winter Wonderland have also been closed temporarily, Al-Arabiya TV Station reported, citing the General Entertainment Authority.
Prior to these latest announcements, Saudi authorities has taken precautionary measures to help contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom. These include the implementation of a temporary ban on pilgrims and tourists, as well as restricting the entry of GCC citizens and residents in the country.