Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Saudi Arabia suspends all international flights for two weeks staring 1100 March 15 to stem spread of COVID-19. Further restrictions likely.

This alert affects Saudi Arabia

This alert began 14 Mar 2020 04:13 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Travel restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Entry restrictions, health screenings, increased immigration wait times, travel restrictions, business disruptions

Summary
Authorities will suspend all international flights for a period of two weeks from 1100 March 15. The measure is intended to stem the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Additional restrictions are likely in the coming days as new cases of COVID-19 emerge in the country.

Saudi officials imposed a temporary ban, March 12, on the Kingdom's citizens and residents from traveling to Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, countries in the European Union, India, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Switzerland. The ban follows an earlier suspension, March 9, on land and sea travel to and from France, Germany, Oman, Spain, and Turkey for their citizens and residents.

Saudi officials previously barred their citizens and residents from travel to Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The temporary restrictions will also prevent anyone who has visited the nine countries in the past 14 days from entering Saudi Arabia. Saudi authorities have also suspended all flights and naval trips, except for evacuation and commercial trade, to and from the nine countries.

Saudi authorities announced March 3 that they are barring citizens and residents of other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations from entering the kingdom for 14 days; however, the measure applies solely to those who have traveled outside the region in the previous two weeks. At the end of the 14 days, Saudi officials will deny travelers from GCC nations from entering the kingdom if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Saudi nationals arriving from other GCC countries must inform authorities if they have traveled outside the region in the preceding 14 days.

Previous restrictions on GCC states, including the suspension of using national identity cards instead of passports and the prohibition of GCC citizens traveling to Mecca and Medina, remain in place. Umrah visas for non-GCC nationals seeking travel to Mecca or Medina also remain suspended. Tourist visas for foreign nationals from countries with a high number of COVID-19 cases remain suspended.

Additionally, authorities have reportedly imposed a temporary lockdown on Qatif Governorate, March 8. Authorities have also halted work at all public and private institutions in the governorate out of an abundance of caution. The kingdom has also shut down universities and religious schools nationwide. Leisure attraction sites - such as the Riyadh Boulevard and Winter Wonderland in the country's capital - have also been closed. There are 86 cases of the COVID-19 in the Kingdom as of March 13.

Background and Analysis
The travel restrictions come amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which originated in China's Wuhan City in Hubei Province. The purpose of the travel restrictions is to prevent the spread of the disease. The WHO has declared the disease a pandemic.

Advice
Individuals affected by the restrictions should postpone travel to Saudi Arabia. Follow all official immigration and health screening instructions. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.