Saudi Arabia suspends the entry of Gulf Cooperation Council citizens to Mecca and Medina from Feb. 28. Further travel restrictions likely.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 28 Feb 2020 23:00 GMT and is scheduled to expire 06 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Travel restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Start Time/Date: Feb. 28
  • Impact: Entry restrictions; health screenings; likely increased immigration wait times

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Feb. 28 that it will suspend the entry of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens to Mecca and Medina. The measure excludes GCC citizens who have been in Saudi Arabia for more than 14 consecutive days and are asymptomatic for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Ministry previously suspended visas for pilgrims seeking to perform Umrah in Mecca or visit the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. Authorities have also stopped issuing tourist visas for foreign nationals from countries with a significant COVID-19 activity, but have not specified which countries fall under this category. The Ministry added that Saudi nationals and GCC citizens would not be able to use their national identity cards 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 World Health Organization 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 pilgrims also visit the Prophet's Mosque in Medina as part of their journey.

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.

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