Given the Coronavirus outbreak that has been spreading rapidly worldwide, many governments across the world have had to take drastic measures to curb the spread the growing infection while keeping their citizens safe. Now, Saudi Arabia is coming up with some urgent measures of its own.
According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Ministry of Tourism “decided to temporarily suspend the issuance of electronic tourist visas for those coming from China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Kazakhstan, and upon the arrival from those countries. It also decided to temporarily suspend previously issued tourist visas to citizens of the countries referred to above.”
“The Ministry announced the continuation of issuing tourist visas electronically or upon arrival to citizens of other countries previously permitted, stressing that tourist visa holders should not be allowed to visit Makkah and Madinah.
According to SPA, the decision was made in line with the recommendations of the health authorities concerned with applying the highest precautionary standards, and taking proactive preventive measures to prevent the arrival or spreading of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) to the Kingdom.
With regard to tourist visas issued to citizens of other countries that are not included in the electronic visa, it is possible to verify the possibility of visiting the Kingdom by calling the tourist phone from outside the Kingdom and its number: 00 966 92 0000 890.
As for the American, British and Schengen visa holders, they can check the possibility of obtaining the tourist visa through this number as well.
The Ministry of Tourism confirmed that “these procedures are temporary, and are subject to continuous evaluation by the competent authorities.”
As further precaution, Saudi Arabia has suspended the issuance of Umrah pilgrimage visas as well. The country hosts nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims annually. If left unchecked, the Coronavirus situation would only worsen, as we see with Iran.
The GCC and Middle East in general saw a surge in cases following the landing of flights arriving from Iran, where Arab citizens often travel to for pilgimage. Initial cases in Kuwait were linked to people returning from Mashhad, a Muslim pilgrim site in Iran.
According to media reports, Iran almost singlehandedly infected Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, the UAE, Oman, and Iraq. Iran also has the highest number of fatalities outside China, totalling 66 as of this writing.
Nearby in the GCC, the UAE has banned travel to Thailand and Iran in similar efforts to alleviate the outbreak.
At the moment, Coronavirus cases worldwide have totalled 89,855, while fatalities have reached 3,069. In the past few days, the virus has relatively slowed its spread, as more countries like Saudi Arabia increase their precautionary measures.