Saudi Arabia suspends entry from 20 countries, including Pakistan
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday suspended entry to the kingdom from 20 countries, including Pakistan, with the exception of diplomats, Saudi citizens, medical practitioners and their families, to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the state news agency reported.
The interior ministry announced the “temporary suspension” would be effective from 9:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The ban applies to neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and in the wider region, to Lebanon and Turkey.
In Europe, the ban includes Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Elsewhere, as well as the US, it applies to Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan and South Africa.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia also wrote a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com.
"This includes those coming from other countries, if they passed through any of the above-mentioned states within 14 days before requesting entry to the kingdom. However, the kingdom would like to ensure uninterrupted supply chains and shipping movement between the kingdom and these countries in accordance with the precautionary measures determined by the Saudi Ministry of Health," the letter said.
"The entry of Saudi nationals, diplomats and health practitioners along with their families coming from any of the mentioned countries, or passed through within (14) days, is permissible but they have to follow the precautionary measures and [standard operating procedures] adopted by the Saudi Ministry of Health.
"The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia would like to avail itself of this opportunity to renew to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan the assurances of its highest consideration," the letter concluded.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said on Tuesday night that Saudi authorities had once again banned arrival of passengers from Pakistan from 9pm on Feb 3, in the wake of a new wave of coronavirus.
Prior to the ban, the PIA flights were operating as usual from Sialkot to Dammam, Multan to Madina and Islamabad to Riyadh. The spokesman said two PIA flights — from Karachi to Jeddah and Lahore to Madina — were currently in operation.
However, the PIA would continue flights to bring back passengers from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, the spokesman said.
The restrictions come after Saudi's health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah warned on Sunday that new coronavirus restrictions could be imposed if citizens and residents do not comply with health restrictions.
Saudi Arabia has reported more than 368,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 6,400 deaths, the highest among Gulf Arab states.
Daily infections dipped below 100 in early January, from a peak of nearly 5,000 last June. However, new daily infections have tripled since then, with 310 cases reported by the health ministry on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Dec 17 after receiving the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The health ministry said the programme would roll out in three phases, starting with people over 65 and those with chronic ailments, or who are at high risk of infection.
But last month the ministry said it was forced to slow the rollout due to a delay in vaccine deliveries.