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Saudi Arabia to suspend all international flights over coronavirus

Saudi Arabia on Saturday said it would sppuspend all international flights for two weeks, as part of the kingdom’s efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

The measure is set to be enforced from 11 am (0800 GMT) on Sunday, the agency said, citing an unnamed source at the Interior Ministry.

“This (will be) an exceptional official holiday for citizens and expatriates who were unable to return due to the suspension of flights or they were in quarantine after their return back to the Kingdom,” the source said.

The announcement comes two days after Saudi Arabia introduced new travel restrictions to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The announcement is also coming after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the outbreak had reached the level of a global pandemic.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia expanded its travel bans, halting travel to and from all European Union countries and Switzerland.

The decision affects 11 other countries in Asia and Africa, including India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has already halted the Muslim Umrah pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca amid fears of an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Millions of Muslims worldwide travel to Saudi Arabia every year to perform the Umrah, the minor pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time during the year.

The main Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj, is expected in late July this year.

Saudi authorities have reported 86 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, code-named COVID-19 by WHO.

 

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