Saudi authorities extend travel ban to Germany, France, Turkey, Spain, and Oman due to COVID-19 March 9. Further restrictions possible.

Severity: Warning Alert

This alert began 09 Mar 2020 16:06 GMT and is scheduled to expire 16 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
Saudi authorities announced March 9 that they have temporarily suspended land and sea travel to and from Oman, France, Germany, Turkey, and Spain for their nationals and residents, to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

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 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. Authorities stated that the measures are temporary. Officials could introduce additional travel restrictions in the coming days.

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, which is home to most of the country's 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 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.

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 virus a global health emergency.

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.

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