Saudi Arabia will suspend all domestic transportation services for 14 days from 06:00 (local time) on Saturday, March 21, in an effort to prevent further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Kingdom. All domestic flights, trains, buses, and taxis will be impacted by the regulations. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, only humanitarian flights and aircraft being used for medical evacuations or with special permission will be allowed to operate. Commercial train services will also still be allowed to run and cargo ships will not be affected.
Other travel restrictions and containment measures also remain in place as of Friday, March 20. All international travel has been suspended for two weeks from Sunday, March 15, and most private sector business have been ordered to suspend operations for 15 days. Only businesses providing vital food, health, or utility services will remain operational. Malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and public parks are also closed.
To prevent further spread of the virus, authorities ordered a temporary lockdown of the eastern Qatif region, on Sunday, March 8, after 11 individuals from the area tested positive for the virus. All entry and exit into Qatif has been halted, and work at all government and private institutions has been suspended. The education minister announced on Sunday that all schools and universities nationwide will be suspended from Monday, March 9, until further notice.
As of March 20, 274 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
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 numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
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.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.