Saudi Arabia suspends international flights for 2 weeks over coronavirus

Riyadh, Mar 14 (efe-epa).- Saudi Arabia has suspended all international flights for two weeks over coronavirus concerns, the state-run SPA news agency reported on Saturday.

The travel ban will come into force on Sunday at 8am GMT “except in exceptional cases,” SPA reported, citing an Interior Ministry source it did not name, without providing further details about the exceptions.

The suspension was a precautionary measure recommended by local health authorities aimed at protecting citizens and residents from the deadly virus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the source added.

Saudi authorities announced on Thursday the suspension of flights with the European Union, bringing the number of countries included in the travel ban to 40, including Arab, Asian and African nations.

Over the past few days, Saudi Arabia has taken several measures to tackle the outbreak, including the isolation of a province and suspension of classes and public events such as the country’s first film festival. Authorities also banned access to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina for both foreigners and locals.

The two cities host millions of pilgrims every year.Saudi Arabia has reported 62 coronavirus cases, five of whom have recovered, according to the WHO’s most recent figures.

Earlier this week, Kuwait, which has reported 100 cases, banned 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.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, closed Sanaa airport for flights of the United Nations and relief organizations for 14 days.

This was a precautionary measure, according to the rebels who control the capital, adding that no coronavirus cases had been registered in Yemen.

The new coronavirus originated in Wuhan, the capital city of the central Chinese province of Hubei, in December, and has since spread around the world.

Some of those infected develop the pneumonia-like disease Covid-19. Most of the fatalities have been elderly people or those who had underlying medical conditions. EFE-EPA


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