Saudi Arabia bans Filipino tourists over coronavirus outbreak

Saudi Arabia is imposing a travel ban on tourists from countries, including the Philippines, judged to pose "a particularly high risk" of spreading the 2019 novel coronavirus, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced late Wednesday night, March 4.

Aside from tourist visa holders, the Saudi government is also banning the entry of "umrah" pilgrimage visa holders to quell the spread of the virus.

The advisory follows days of confusion over the exact scope of the Saudi government's travel restrictions first implemented last February 27.

Saudi Arabia earlier announced the unprecedented decision to ban "umrah" pilgrims from visiting Islam's holiest sites to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The kingdom added it was also suspending visas for tourists visiting from countries where the new virus is a "danger."

But despite restrictions limited to pilgrims and tourist visas, the Philippine government sought to clarify the full scope of the Saudi government's travel ban, following reports that some Filipinos traveling to Saudi Arabia were unable to enter the country for other purposes.

Following this, the DFA said among Filipinos exempted from the Saudi government's ban are those who hold visas for the following purposes:

  • Employment
  • Work visit
  • Business visit
  • Family visit

Filipinos holding these types of visas will still be allowed entry into Saudi Arabia, the DFA said.

Aside from this, the Saudi government announced it is suspending the issuance of entry visas for the "umrah" pilgirms, visits to the Prophet's mosque in Medina, as well as tourist visas "indefinitely" due to the coronavirus crisis.

The DFA gave assurances the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah are closely monitoring the situation and are coordinating with the concerned agencies of the Saudi government.

Filipinos on their way to Saudi Arabia who experience problems related to these travel restrictions can call the embassy at (+966-11) 482-0507, or the consulate at (+966-12) 667-0925 and (+966-12) 669-6303.

As of Wednesday night, Saudi Arabia recorded one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

Worldwide, the death toll due to the coronavirus stood at over 3,200 as of Wednesday, while over 93,000 people were infected across 81 countries.

The Philippines, meanwhile, earlier recorded 3 confirmed cases of coronavirus – all Chinese tourists – including the first death due outside China. The other two cases have since recovered and left the country. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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