Saudi Arabia bans Filipinos with tourist or pilgrimage visas over coronavirus fears
Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Feb. 28, 2020.
AFP/Abdel Ghani Bashir

Saudi Arabia bans Filipinos with tourist or pilgrimage visas over coronavirus fears

Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - March 5, 2020 - 10:58am

MANILA, Philippines — Saudi Arabia is enforcing a temporary travel ban on foreign nationals, including Filipinos, with pilgrimage and tourist visas as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced late Wednesday that the travel restriction covers umrah visa holders and tourist visa holders from countries “judged to pose a particularly high risk” of spreading the potentially deadly virus.

Saudi Arabia suspended Wednesday the umrah pilgrimage, which attracts millions of Muslims globally each year. Umrah refers to the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year.

The announcement came days after the kingdom confirmed its first case of new coronavirus.

The Saudi government is also suspending indefinitely the issuance of tourist visas and entry visas for the purpose of umrah, visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

But Filipinos who have visas for employment, work visit, business visit and family visit are still allowed to enter the oil-rich kingdom, DFA said.

Last year, Saudi Arabia offered tourist visas for the first time in a bid to kickstart tourism in the desert kingdom endowed with rich Bedouin heritage and archaeological sites.

The virus has spread to some 80 countries and infected more 95,000 people after first emerging in China late last year. The global death toll from the epidemic stood at 3,200 Tuesday. — with report from Agence France-Presse 

Filipino nationals enroute to Saudi Arabia who will encounter any issues or problems on the travel restriction may the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh at (+966-11) 482-0507 or the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah at (+966-12) 667-0925 and (+966-12) 669-6303.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 18, 2021 - 9:27pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

January 18, 2021 - 9:27pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2,031,048 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources at 1100 GMT on Monday.

More than 94,964,590 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 57,817,100 are now considered recovered.

These figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by statistical organisations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain. — AFP

January 18, 2021 - 6:45pm

Nearly three million people were put under lockdown in China Monday after a surge in coronavirus cases linked to a travelling salesman in the country's northeast.

While China has largely brought the virus under control, a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks has prompted fresh lockdowns, travel restrictions and multiple rounds of mass testing. 

Monday saw three million residents of two cities in northeastern Jilin province placed under new measures, as China reported 109 new infections. —  AFP

January 16, 2021 - 2:04pm

India is set to begin one of the world's largest coronavirus vaccination drives Saturday as the pandemic spread at a record pace and global COVID-19 deaths surged past two million.

The World Health Organization has called for accelerating vaccine rollouts worldwide as well as ramping up efforts to study the sequencing of the virus, which has infected more than 93 million people globally since it was first detected in China in late 2019.

India, home to 1.3 billion people, has the world's second-largest caseload, and the government has given approvals to two vaccines -- though one is yet to complete clinical trials -- aiming to inoculate around 300 million people by July. — AFP

January 16, 2021 - 10:26am

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleges there were COVID-like illnesses among staff at a Chinese virology institute in autumn 2019, casting further blame on Beijing as health experts arrived in the country to probe the pandemic's origins.

The top US diplomat in a statement urged the World Health Organization team that landed Thursday in Wuhan, where COVID-19 was first detected, to "press the government of China" on the "new information." 

"The United States government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the (Wuhan Institute of Virology) became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses," Pompeo says. — AFP

January 16, 2021 - 9:06am

The global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed two million, with the World Health Organization urging mass vaccinations as the pandemic progresses at a record pace. 

As of 1825 GMT on Friday, at least 2,000,066 people worldwide had been confirmed dead of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, according to an AFP tally. 

The grim milestone came as US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said shipments of its vaccines would slow for a period in late January -- a blow to fledgling campaigns to immunize people against the virus. — AFP

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