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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia widens travel ban to Europe as it reports 24 new cases

Saudi citizens and residents in the affected EU states and 12 other countries have 72 hours to return to the kingdom
The decision excludes health workers in the kingdom from the Philippines and India (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has extended flight and travel bans over coronavirus fears to include the European Union and 12 other countries after announcing 24 new cases overnight to bring its total to 45, state media reported on Thursday.

Citizens and residents in the affected jurisdictions have 72 hours to return to the kingdom, the state Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said, citing an official source at the interior ministry.

Passenger traffic through all land crossings with Jordan was also suspended, while commercial and cargo traffic is still allowed.

The kingdom had already banned travel to some 19 countries, including neighbouring Arab states, and said it would impose a fine of up to 500,000 riyals ($133,000) on people who did not disclose health information and travel details at entry points.

Other preventive measures have included locking down the oil-producing region of Qatif, where many of its cases are centred, suspending the Umrah pilgrimage, closing schools and cinemas nationwide, cancelling conferences and sporting events, and postponing a G20 ministerial meeting scheduled for next week.

As well as the EU, the latest decision includes Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia.

Despite the ban, at the time of publication, no coronavirus cases have been documented in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti or Eritrea, according to John Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracking website

Millions of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia come from many of those countries.

The decision excludes health workers in the kingdom from the Philippines and India as well as evacuation, shipping and trade trips involving necessary precautions, the SPA report said.