Riyadh – AFP
On Monday night, Saudi Arabia decided to temporarily suspend travel by air and sea to nine countries “in the interest of the health” of its citizens and residents on its territory, hours after the suspension of studies throughout the country until further notice, in a series of decisions issued against the background of the emerging Corona virus.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia suspended “temporarily” entry and exit from the predominantly Shiite province of Qatif in the east of the Kingdom, in the first of its kind in the Gulf region in which more than 200 cases of 19-Covid virus were announced, most of them with people returning from Iran.
Saudi Arabia has recorded 11 cases of the emerging coronavirus, which have killed about 3,800 people worldwide.
According to the Saudi News Agency, the kingdom’s government “decided to temporarily suspend the travel of citizens and residents to the Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy, and Iraq, as well as suspend entry to those from those countries, or the entry of those who were there during the 14 days preceding his arrival.”
The Kingdom also decided to “stop air and sea flights between the Kingdom and the mentioned countries.”
She emphasized that this aims to “ensure the protection of the health of citizens and residents and ensure their safety.”
“The situation in Egypt is very bad. We must ensure that travelers are not infected with the Corona virus,” a senior Saudi official familiar with the file told AFP on Sunday before the decision was issued.
He continued, “We cannot tolerate one casualty coming from there,” at a time when Cairo announced Sunday the registration of the first death of the new Corona.
The Egyptian Ministry of Health stated that the injured man who died, a German citizen, arrived in Egypt seven days ago.
On Sunday evening, the Saudi Ministry of Education announced “the temporary suspension of studies in all regions and governorates of the Kingdom from Monday (March 9) until further notice.”
And she added that the decision “includes public and private schools and institutions of education and university and the public and private technical and vocational training institution.”
With regard to the Qatif Governorate, an official source in the Ministry of Interior said, according to what the government news agency quoted as saying that the decision was taken “because all positive cases recorded (…) carrying the new Corona virus are residents of Qatif Governorate.”
The population of Al-Qatif Governorate is 524 thousand people, according to official statistics for the year 2017.
According to the statement, “internationally established practices to prevent the spread of the virus require treatment at the geographical level in which the cases are present.”
The statement said that Qatif residents will be allowed to return to their homes, while work will be stopped in all government departments and private institutions except pharmacies, petrol stations, health institutions and major facilities to provide security and supply services.
The government news channel reported that the authorities decided to close the “Riyadh Boulevard” and “Winter Wonderland”, which are two main entertainment destinations in the capital, in order to ensure the “safety of visitors.”
It also quoted the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs as stopping its decision to “provide hookahs” in cafes and restaurants “in order to preserve the health of citizens and residents.”
The Saudi Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that seven of the 11 recorded infections with the new Corona virus related to people coming from Iran.
“The number of those present in isolation or quarantine, whether in the home or in the quarantines, is about 600 people,” said Ministry of Health spokesman Mohammed al-Abd al-Ali at a press conference in Riyadh.
He pointed out that “420 Saudis” have recently returned from neighboring Iran, where the virus is spreading and “they are treated according to the necessary health measures.”
And on Sunday, the Emirate of Najran in the south of the country said that the Director-General of Health Affairs in the region and his deputy are subject to domestic isolation “until the results of laboratory tests appear, because of their presence on an official mission a week ago, to contract with doctors and technicians in one of the countries.”
The Islamic Republic is among the largest outbreaks of the virus outside China, where it appeared for the first time, and 194 people out of 6,566 cases died.
Iran has shrines and holy sites for Shiites, who make up between 10 and 15 percent of the kingdom’s 32 million people.
Saudi Arabia denounced Iran’s “irresponsible” behavior for introducing Saudi citizens to its territory without stamping their passports.
“The direct responsibility for causing the spread of the infection and spreading the virus across the world and posing a health risk threatening the safety of mankind,” the official Saudi Press Agency quoted an official source as saying. Tehran has not yet responded to these accusations.
Gulf states are taking precautionary measures, including stopping trips to Iran, closing schools and educational institutions, delaying festivals and artistic events, and preventing fans from attending football matches.
The Bahrain Grand Prix organizers announced at the Formula One World Championship that the race scheduled for this month will be held without an audience.