RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has banned all travel by its citizens or resident foreigners to virus-hit China and introduced penalities for any breach, state media announced Thursday.
“Trips to China by citizens or (foreign) residents are suspended in accordance with the preventive health measures the kingdom has adopted against the virus,” the official SPA news agency said.
Expatriates who flout the ban face being barred from returning to the kingdom.
China’s coronavirus crisis has deepened with the death toll soaring to 563 on Thursday, as thousands of people trapped on quarantined cruise ships add to the global panic about the epidemic.
More than 28,000 people have now been infected across China as authorities struggle to contain the outbreak despite compelling millions to stay indoors in a growing number of cities.
Two dozen countries have confirmed cases of the respiratory disease which emerged from a market selling exotic animals in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Saudi Arabia is not among them, although the neighbouring United Arab Emirates has reported five confirmed cases, all among Chinese arrivals from Wuhan.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman have advised their citizens against all travel to China but without any compulsion.