Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 travel ban now covers the Philippines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — Saudi Arabia has expanded its COVID-19 travel ban to cover 12 more countries, including the Philippines, the office of Manila’s consulate general in Jeddah said Thursday.

The travel ban, however, exempts health workers from the Philippines and India returning to Saudi Arabia, according to Consul General Edgar Badajos.

“They will be subjected to a special medical evaluation upon their return. They are further advised to coordinate with their respective employers in the kingdom prior to their return,” Badajos said.

He added that transportation to Saudi by land through its borders with Jordan is also suspended, except for the passage of passengers considered as humanitarian cases.

The ban also allows Saudi citizens and permanent residents three days to return to the Middle Eastern kingdom before the travel suspension takes effect.

The state-run Saudi News Agency reported that travelers from the Philippines, countries in the European Union, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia will be barred from entering Saudi, while its citizens will also be prohibited from traveling to these countries.

Saudi Arabia currently has 45 patients with COVID-19, while the Philippines has reported 52.

Globally, over 126,000 people have contracted the disease with more than 4,600 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University's global tracking of cases.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which is related to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but is not as deadly, with the fatality rate standing at around three percent.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of patients only experience “mild illness” and eventually recover. It added that some 14 percent experience severe illness while five percent were critically ill.

The disease is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when people infected with the virus cough or sneeze.

To prevent infection, authorities are urging people to practice regular hand washing, cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with those who show respiratory symptoms.

Commonly reported COVID-19 symptoms are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Those with severe and critical symptoms should call the Health Department at (02) 8-651-7800 local 1149-1150.

The WHO now calls COVID-19 a pandemic, but stressed that this should not cause alarm as it can still be controlled since 90 percent of infections are being reported in only four countries, while outbreaks in China and South Korea are slowing down.