Saudi Arabia places additional travel restrictions on pilgrims and tourists, starting Feb. 26. Increased travel restrictions likely.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 27 Feb 2020 03:39 GMT and is scheduled to expire 12 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Travel restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Start Time/Date: Feb. 26
  • Impact: Entry restrictions; likely increased immigration wait times

Summary
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Feb. 26 that it would suspend visas for pilgrims seeking to perform Umrah in Mecca and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. It will also stop issuing tourist visas for foreign nationals from countries with a significant coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread. Authorities have not specified which countries fall under this category. The Ministry added that Saudi nationals and citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would not be able to use their national identity card to travel to and from Saudi Arabia temporarily.

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 virus a global health emergency.

Background and Analysis
Tens of thousands of pilgrims travel to the Great Mosque in Mecca every month to perform Umrah. Unlike the Hajj, Umrah can be performed at any time of the year. Most Muslims also visit the Prophet's Mosque in Medina as part of the pilgrimage.

Advice
Individuals affected by the restrictions should postpone planned travel. 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.

 

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