Saudi Arabia bans travel amid coronavirus: Ten questions answered

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Saudi Arabia has recently introduced a new series of measures as it continues to work to minimize the impact of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, in the Kingdom. The new travel restrictions are far reaching, and will impact citizens, residents, and those who regularly commute to Saudi Arabia for work.

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The number of coronavirus cases in the country is relatively low. The Kingdom has recorded 20 cases so far and no deaths.

Travel to the Kingdom is extremely limited right now, with restrictions even including those on Saudi citizens and residents. On Monday night, citizens and residents were given 72 hours to return from Bahrain and the UAE. Many flights from the UAE and Bahrain to Saudi Arabia were canceled beginning early Monday and remain canceled today.

Though most flights from the UAE have been canceled, two Saudia airlines flights departed Dubai last night, one to Jeddah and one to Riyadh. Today, the UAE continues to send Saudi citizens home, Abdulhadi Muhammad Al Shafi, consul general of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Dubai told Al Arabiya. There are 3,000 Saudis registered at the consulate in the UAE. Those returning to Saudi Arabia were not screened by the consulate before traveling but were checked at the airport, and no cases have been recorded as of now.

Business visa holders outside the country currently will not be able to enter the Kingdom from the 14 countries under Saudi Arabia's current travel ban. Those with business visas in a country not on the list will likely still be able to enter the Kingdom if they did not spend time in a country on the list within the last 14 days. For example, if a person traveled through the UAE within the last two weeks and attempted to enter the Kingdom via a third country, their entry may be denied. A travel agent told Al Arabiya English that those entering the Kingdom may be asked to self-quarantine and be subjected to airport health screenings.

Al Arabiya English confirmed that some business visa holders were allowed to exit the country on Tuesday. Commuters wishing to return to the GCC from Saudi Arabia can come via a third country where flights are still operational between Saudi Arabia.

Can non-citizens travel to Saudi Arabia?

It depends where travelers are coming from right now, and also where they've been. On March 3, Saudi Arabia announced that GCC citizens and residents must spend 14 continuous days in that country and show no signs of coronavirus before being granted entry to the Kingdom. This affects citizens and residents of the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar.

Professionals working in Saudi Arabia would be able to enter the Kingdom if they have not left the GCC in the last 14 days. However, if they leave the GCC to a third-party country, they must then wait 14 days before entering the Kingdom.

Where can Saudi citizens and residents travel to?

Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended travel for citizens and residents to 14 countries on Monday. Citizens and residents can no longer travel to Oman, France, Germany, Turkey, Spain, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Italy, and South Korea. Entry for travelers who had visited those countries in the prior 14 days was also suspended.

Can Saudi Arabian residents who visited a suspended country go home?

Saudi Arabian residents can still travel to the Kingdom via a third country not on that list. For example, if a person were in the UAE, travel to Saudi Arabia via a country that has not been barred from entry may still be possible. However, those who choose this option will be screened at the airport and may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Can I travel to Saudi Arabia for Umrah?

The country suspended entry for visitors and for Umrah pilgrims at the end of February. At the time, visitors from certain countries were told they were unable to enter the country for tourism. The day of the announcement, February 27, UAE-based travel agents were refusing to issue flight tickets to the Kingdom to anyone who wasn’t a Saudi national, according to travel agents.

Read more: Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah due to coronavirus: The facts

Can I drive across the border into Saudi Arabia?

Land entry via the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain is limited to commercial trucks, and arrivals are limited to entry through airports, the Kingdom announced Saturday. The government temporarily restricted entry to the Kingdom for travelers from the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain to the following airports only: King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam.

Read more: How deadly is the coronavirus and is there a cure: 10 questions answered

-Ismaeel Naar contributed to this report.

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