Saudi Arabia bans Kenyans from traveling to the country over coronavirus

Saudi women arriving at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, August 21, 2019. [Reuters]

Saudi Arabia has banned the entry of Kenyans, citizens from the European Union and 11 other countries to the country in a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In the latest decision, Saudi Arabia extended flight and travel bans from Switzerland, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia.

The travel of its citizens to the named countries has also been banned.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that citizens and residents in the affected jurisdictions have 72 hours to return to the Kingdom.

Kenyans are among the millions of job seekers who travel to Saudi Arabia to look for employment.

No case of coronavirus has been reported in Kenya since its outbreak late last year in the Wuhan City of China.

Saudi Arabia had already banned travel to some 19 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy and Iraq in response to the coronavirus threat.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Kingdom now stands at 45 after 24 news cases were announced on Thursday.

The country locked down the oil-producing region of Qatif, where many of its cases of COVID-19 were reported.

The Arab nation also suspended the Umrah pilgrimage, closed schools and cinemas, cancelled conferences and sporting events as a preventive measure against the spread of the deadly virus.

The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday the outbreak of the new coronavirus as a pandemic.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference.

The virus has so far killed 4,635 people and there are currently 126,386 confirmed cases in 124 countries and territories.