coronavirus, Rafic Hariri Airport, Lebanon, COVID-19, airport
Source: Naharnet

On Lebanon

As the number of coronavirus cases rises in countries around the world, including Arab ones, many countries and airlines have taken extreme measures in the fight against its spread.

On Wednesday, Lebanon suspended flights from countries where COVID-19 has infected thousands, namely Italy, South Korea, Iran, and China. This came after the country witnessed its second death from the pandemic in just two days. On March 12, the country recorded its third death. Lebanon, at the time of writing, has recorded a total of 68 coronavirus-infected individuals, with the first case being reported on Feb. 21. 

Lebanon's PM Hassan Diab also said that the country will stop arrivals from France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. However, he did not specify an exact date of when this would be imposed.

A 56-year-old man who had returned home from Egypt was the first to die on Tuesday. Another 55-year-old national who had been suffering a chronic illness before he was infected also died this week after being in contact with infected people who arrived from abroad.

Schools, universities, cafés, bars, and other public places have been ordered to close down until further notice in an attempt to contain the virus. But some people in the country haven't been taking the virus seriously enough. Images of droves of groups are being shared online, showing how people are "enjoying" the time off of school and university, which defeats the purpose of their closure. It also increases the risk of infection which is not something that should be taken lightly.

The vast majority of cases are being treated at Beirut's Rafik Hariri state hospital. However, the director of the hospital said they cannot hold the burden alone. 

"If the number of cases grows, then the capacity of the healthcare system to respond needs to be improved," said Firas al-Abyad, according to Arabian Business. 

A lack of a proper system to handle such an outbreak has, for example, pushed Italy to rock bottom where the number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 10,100. It's been reported that hospitals in Italy haven't been able to tend to everybody as there are only a limited number of machines to provide oxygen for those gasping for air. Recently published guidelines - written by a group of doctors in Italy - suggested that "the allocation criteria need to guarantee that those patients with the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care." It also stated that "it may become necessary to establish an age limit for access to intensive care."

So is Lebanon more prepared to handle an outbreak? It's highly improbable especially if the rate at which the virus spreads excels in speed. 

On Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended all flights to and from a list of 39 countries including the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, South Korea, Egypt, Italy, Iraq, Oman, France, Germany, Turkey, and Spain to name a few.  

Because of this, Emirates and Etihad will operate "special" flights to the kingdom following the suspension to give Saudi nationals a chance to get home. Emirates will operate three daily flights to Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam from March 12 to March 15. On March 11, Etihad began offering a single one-way flight service per day from Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

Only Saudi nationals will be allowed to travel on the Emirates flights from Dubai to Jeddah and Dammam. The flight to Riyadh, however, will be open to Saudi nationals and travelers holding permits for the G20 Summit. The latter was called upon to discuss the coronavirus threat to the world's economy as well as the Saudi Arabia-Russia oil price war. As for return flights, they will only be open to non-Saudi nationals.

Etihad's flights to the kingdom will only be open to Saudi nationals but return flights will not be restricted. Etihad has also suspended all flights between Abu Dhabi and Medina until further notice.

On another note, Saudia Airlines - the national carrier for the kingdom - announced that it will refund/rebook tickets for travelers who have been affected by the new measures. The airline has waived all fees on international flights to and from Saudi Arabia on tickets issued on or before March 31 for travel up to and including April 15.

At the time of writing, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia stood at 45. No deaths as a result of the virus have been reported in the kingdom thus far. The country has also suspended all schools, universities, and educational institutions starting March 9 until further notice. The Saudi entertainment authority has also announced the closure of Riyadh Boulevard and Winter Wonderland due to concerns about the new coronavirus. 

On the UAE

Last week, the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention asked all citizens and residents to avoid traveling due to COVID-19. The Ministry highlighted that if travel is inevitable, preventive measures will be taken upon the passenger's return to the country. Early on, the UAE banned all flights to and from Iran, following the outbreak there. 

Since then, Dubai airports have been taking matters into their own hands with measures such as non-intrusive thermal screening for all passengers who arrive at Dubai airports. Passengers from countries with a high infection rate are screened twice. There are also local airlines that have taken decisions to cut or reduce flights to countries with a high infection rate. 

Emirates, for example, has suspended its daily flight to Venice, Italy, from March 21 to 31. It is also reducing the number of flights from Dubai to Milan from three to one flight per day. The carrier's flights to Rome will also be cut from two to one flight per day until April 30, at the least. 

This week, the UAE denied port entry to all cruise ships as authorities take precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus. The decision came after a high profile outbreak on board the Diamond Princess ship and a second incident on a vessel off California.

Schools across the country have been closed until April 5; recent rumors alleged that schools will remain closed until the start of the next academic term, claims that have been refuted by the country's Ministry of Education. Abu Dhabi has since banned the serving of shisha in "all tourism establishments" to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

Other Arab countries

Most Arab countries have placed an entry ban on nationals of China, Iran, and Italy and on foreign nationals who have visited China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea in the 14 days prior to their arrival to the respective country. Here's a more detailed look at three additional Arab countries: 


Foreign nationals have been banned from entering/transiting in Bahrain if they have visited China, Iran, Iraq, South Korea, or Thailand in the 14 days prior to their landing in Bahrain. The ban does not apply to nationals of the country and other GCC countries, foreign residents in Bahrain, military personnel, and those with special approval from the Ministry of Interior.

A total of 77 Bahraini citizens evacuated from Iran tested positive for coronavirus, the health ministry said on Wednesday. At the time of writing, there are 195 coronavirus cases in the country. 


This week, Jordan announced the closure of its sea borders with Egypt and placed a travel ban to Syria and Lebanon in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus into the kingdom. The Hashemite kingdom has also suspended flights to and from Italy, travel by land to Iraq (air travel through Arbil and Baghdad airports still allowed), and banned flights to France, Spain, and Germany and reduced the number of flights from Egypt to half. 

Jordan, which has already barred travelers from South Korea, Iran, and Italy, has so far had one confirmed COVID-19 case in a traveler returning from Italy.


Nationals of China, Hong Kong SAR, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand are banned from entering Kuwait. Expats with a residence permit or visa who have visited China or Hong Kong SAR in the 14 days prior to arrival to Kuwait are also banned from entering the country. 

Foreign nationals who have visited Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, or Thailand in the 14 days prior to travel to Kuwait - with the exception of Kuwaiti nationals - are also barred from entering. 

As for GCC residents, traveling with national identity cards will not pass anymore; only passports can now be used for entry.