Coronavirus: Saudi citizens and residents barred from travelling to China

Move follows evacuation of Saudi students from epicentre of outbreak in Wuhan city

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Saudi Arabia has barred its citizens and residents of the kingdom from traveling to China in response to the deadly virus outbreak there.

The General Directorate of Passports said that any residents of the kingdom who violate the order would not be allowed to re-enter the kingdom. It also said that regulatory provisions on travel documents would be applied to citizens who violate the travel ban, without further elaboration. The statement was carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The travel ban comes after Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia joined other major airlines in suspending flights to China on Sunday. Ten Saudi students have been evacuated from the Chinese city Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, and quarantined upon arrival to Riyadh for two weeks.

The viral outbreak has infected more than 28,200 people globally, most of them in China where more than  560 people have died.

China has imposed travel restrictions restrictions that have isolated more than 50 million people in and around Wuhan, a central Chinese city where the outbreak began in December and where the vast majority of the deaths have been recorded. Throughout China, cities, towns and villages have enacted varying levels of restrictions and foreign countries have severely restricted travel to and from the country.

The virus, believed to have originated in wild animals sold at a food market in Wuhan, is part of a family of coronaviruses, including Mers and Sars, and causes fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is particularly deadly among people over 60 and those with pre-existing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.