Oman Air issues statement on travellers to Saudi

Muscat: Following the directives of the authorities of Saudi Arabia, Oman Air said on Thursday that it will not be able to accept passengers traveling to the Kingdom for Omrah and tourism purposes from countries affected by the Coronavirus from February 27.

|”Nationals of GCC countries who wish to travel from and to Saudi Arabia must present their passports instead of national identity cards at all airports. All guests are advised to monitor our website and social media channels for further updates,” the statement said.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for the “Omrah” pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by Coronavirus fears.
The kingdom, which hosts millions of pilgrims every year in the cities of Mecca and Medina, also suspended visas for tourists from countries with reported infections as fears of a pandemic deepen.

Saudi Arabia, which so far has reported no cases of the virus but has expressed alarm over its spread in neighbouring countries, said the suspensions were temporary. It provided no timeframe for when they will be lifted.

“The kingdom’s government has decided to take the following precautions: suspending entry to the kingdom for Omrah and visit to the Prophet’s mosque temporarily,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “Suspending entry into the kingdom with tourist visas for those coming from countries, in which the spread of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a danger.”

The move comes as Gulf countries implement a raft of measures, including flight suspensions and school closures, to curb the spread of the disease from people returning from pilgrimages to Iran.
Even as the number of fresh Coronavirus cases declines at the epicentre of the disease in China, there has been a sudden increase across the Middle East.

Since its outbreak, the United Arab Emirates has reported 13 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, Kuwait has recorded 43, Bahrain has 33 and Oman is at five cases. Iran has emerged as a major hotspot in the region, with 19 fatalities from 139 infections — the highest death toll outside China, where COVID-19 originated.

While no cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, one citizen is reported to be infected in Kuwait along with four Saudi women in Bahrain — all of whom had returned from Iran.
Omrah, which refers to the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of year, attracts millions of devout Muslims from all over the globe each year.

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