Health

Saudi Arabia extends travel ban to Europe amid coronavirus concerns

Riyadh, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- Saudi Arabia Thursday suspended travel to Europe, extending the ban to include 40 countries after the spread of the coronavirus was labelled pandemic.The Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement the government had widened the travel ban to all 27 European Union nations and 12 other Arab, Asian and African countries.The lastest decision included India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, where many migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are from.The move came after Saudi authorities earlier this week temporarily halted travel to and from Germany, France, Italy and Spain, along with 10 other coronavirus-hit countries.People who have been to those countries over the past 14 days cannot access Saudi Arabia, expect Indian and Filipino health workers who will be allowed entry if they undergo “necessary preventive measures”.Riyadh has boosted the precautionary and preventive measures to curb the virus in recent days, as it locked down the region of Qatif, closed schools and universities and postponed public events such as the country’s first film festival.Last week, Saudi Arabia temporarily banned citizens and foreign residents from carrying out the Umrah pilgrimage, a week after banning people from visiting Mecca or Medina.The decision affected millions of Muslims worldwide who travel to the country every year to carry out Umrah, a smaller pilgrimage than Hajj which can be carried out at any time during the year.A total of 45 people have tested positive for the coronavirus so far in the nation, as it has spread across the Persian Gulf.Kuwait, which has 80 confirmed cases, announced Wednesday the suspension of all commercial flights from Kuwait International Airport, a key transit point between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.Only flights carrying Kuwaiti citizens and their immediate relatives will be allowed to travel, according to state-owned news agency KUNA.Lebanon, which has reported three coronavirus deaths, has prohibited the entry of anyone travelling from countries affected by Covid-19, including Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Iraq and Egypt.It also suspended flights to and from Italy, Korea, Iran and China.The measures coincided with the decision of United States President Donald Trump who imposed a ban on travel between Europe and the US, except the UK and Ireland.“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus. We made a life-saving move with early action on China, now we must take the same action with Europe,” Trump said.The coronavirus emerged in China in December and has since been spreading around the world. EFE-EPAsa-smq/rb

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