MANILA, Philippines – Saudi Arabia on Thursday, March 12, announced it was temporarily suspending flights to and from the Philippines and 38 other countries amid growing fears over the continued increase in coronavirus cases.
In a statement, the Saudi Ministry of Interior said the measure would cover the Philippines, European Union countries, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia.
The Saudi government will suspend the entry of travelers coming directly from these countries or had a history of travel to these areas within the last 14 days.
Exempted from the travel restrictions were health workers from the Philippines and India, as well as those involved in evacuation, shipping, and trading trips though they would need to take “required precautions.”
According to an Arab News report, the Saudi government said it was giving 72 hours to all its citizens and permanent residents to return to the Gulf state. Saudi citizens and residents were also banned from traveling to the 38 countries.
Latest measures taken by the Saudi government widen the scope of earlier restrictions taken to ban tourists from countries, including the Philippines, judged to pose “a particularly high risk” of spreading the coronavirus.
Saudi Arabia had earlier announced the unprecedented decision to ban “umrah” pilgrims from visiting Islam’s holiest sites to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. It had also suspended visas for tourists and “umrah” pilgrims visiting from countries where the new virus is a “danger.”
As of Thursday, Saudi Arabia recorded 54 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The Philippines has recorded 49 confirmed cases, two of whom have died.
Worldwide, the death toll from the disease exceeded 4,200 while over 118,000 people were infected in over 100 countries. – Rappler.com