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 (Philstar.com) - 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.

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