Saudi Arabia suspends Vietnamese tourist visas as coronavirus stalks its borders

By Minh Phong   March 6, 2020 | 05:00 pm PT
Saudi Arabia suspends Vietnamese tourist visas as coronavirus stalks its borders
Visitors walk outside the tombs at the Madain Saleh antiquities site, al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, February 10, 2019. Photo by Reuters.
Saudi Arabia has suspended tourist visas for Vietnamese, as well as nationals from 21 other countries and territories, in efforts to elude the spreading Covid-19 epidemic.

Visitors from 22 coronavirus-hit areas including mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam can no longer enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa, effective February 27, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.

Others on the list are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Macao, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The suspensions are temporary and no timeframe was provided for their expiry.

Vietnam reported its 17th Covid-19 infection on Friday after going 22 days with no new infection. Previously, all the 16 patients had recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Saudi Arabia is one of the rare areas not yet affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic that hit 90 countries and territories around the world, with China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan the hotspots.

The kingdom, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, welcomes millions of Muslim visitors throughout the year with a peak during the hajj pilgrimage. It was unclear if the hajj, scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted, with the timeline for suspension unknown.

Saudi Arabia's top tourism official said as of this week 400,000 tourist visas had been issued since their launch last October and the country aims to attract 100 million annual visits in 2030.

Vietnam declared the Covid-19 outbreak an epidemic on February 1. 

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam told a meeting on February 25: "We have won the first battle against the epidemic but have not won the whole battle as we have entered a new stage with the situation worsening in South Korea, Japan and Italy," 

The Covid-19 outbreak broke out in China’s Wuhan City, Hubei Province late December last year. By Saturday morning, the disease had infected 102,000 people in 97 countries and territories and killed 3,500, mostly Chinese citizens.

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