RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism announced on Friday that it has temporarily stopped issuing tourist visas to people in certain countries particularly badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
The affected nations are China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan. The decision applies both to electronic visas obtained online and traditional visas issued upon arrival. In addition, tourist visas previously issued to residents of the listed countries will be temporarily suspended.
Tourist visas will still be available electronically or upon arrival to citizens of other qualifying countries, but as a precaution they will not be allowed to visit Makkah or Madinah.
People in countries that are not eligible for electronic visas can check whether they can travel to the Kingdom by calling a helpline on 0096 692 000 0890. Residents of the US, the UK and Schengen nations can call the same number to check whether they can obtain a tourist visa.
The Ministry of Tourism said that the restrictions were designed to protect citizens, residents and tourists, in line with recommendations from health authorities.
“These procedures are temporary and are subject to continuous evaluation by the competent authorities,” a spokesman for the ministry said.
The latest restrictions come a day after Saudi authorities announced temporary bans on Umrah pilgrims and visits to the Prophet’s Mosque. They also said that holders of tourist visas from the countries worst affected by the virus would be refused entry to the country.
Also on Thursday, the Saudi health ministry said there are still “no known cases” of the coronavirus in the Kingdom.