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28 Feb 2020 | 07:50 PM UTC

Saudi Arabia: Government bars GCC citizens from entering Mecca and Medina due to COVID-19 February 28 /update 6

The government announces it will temporarily suspend entry of GCC citizens to Mecca and Medina from February 28, due to COVID-19 concerns; confirm travel itineraries

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SAU

Event

On Friday, February 28, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that it will temporarily suspend entry of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, due to concerns and travel restrictions in place for coronavirus (COVID-19). MOFA officials said that they will exempt, however, GCC citizens that have been in the Kingdom for the preceding 14 consecutive days and who have not shown any symptoms of the virus.

On Wednesday, February 26, MOFA representatives temporarily suspended entry to the Kingdom for individuals with tourist visas from countries with what it considered a significant COVID-19 outbreak, including China, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea. Both electronic visas and visas issued upon arrival are affected by the policy. They also announced on Wednesday the temporary suspension of both the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and all visits to Al Masjid an Nabawi in Medina.

As of February 28, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia. Further international spread of the virus is anticipated over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in more than 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "'very high' at global level."

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
  • Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments

In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.