Every country around the world is going off the deep end, taking drastic measures to either prevent Coronavirus from entering the country or stopping what could currently be stopped. Following the theory of ‘better safe than sorry’, countries in the Middle East are panicking, closing off all borders and self-quarantining, instead of dealing with passengers arriving from all over the world who may or may not be carrying the novel virus.
As Europe has now become the "epicentre" of the global Coronavirus pandemic, it’s an ironic moment that it’s now African and Middle Eastern countries that are closing off their borders in the face of everyone, but it’s one of -apparently many- surprises that 2020 is holding for the world. Europe is currently under lockdown, the U.S is rejecting the entrance of anyone coming from Europe, Nepal suspending visas, and it’s basically chaos everywhere. But when it comes to the MENA region, we’ve got a different approach to dealing with the disease epidemic.
Amid all the Coronavirus panic taking over the world, many of the MENA region countries have taken the relatively-easier route of closing off borders all together and self-isolating -- whether severely struck by the virus or not, it’s better safe than sorry. After Saudi Arabia suspended all pilgrimages to the holy sites, the Kingdom has now officially suspended all international flights for two weeks starting Sunday March 15th. Citizens and expatriates who are unable to return to Saudi Arabia due to the suspension or who go into quarantine after returning will be granted an "exceptional official holiday.”
Jordan is currently calling out all its citizens abroad to confirm their flight details as the whole country is preparing for a lockdown starting March 17th. After suspending all schools, universities, and educational institutions for two weeks, Jordan is officially closing off in efforts to fight the Coronavirus outbreak. Tunisia is also applying social isolation, the country has started imposing a 14-day self-isolation policy on travelers arriving from all countries without exception, that’s beside closing all its maritime borders and suspending flights from Italy and reducing other flights to a minimum -- including flights coming in from Egypt, Germany, UK, and France. While Libya still insists that it has no positive cases yet, and they’d like to keep it this way, they’ve closed off all schools but they’re too busy with war anyways.
Egypt has suspended all flights starting Thursday 19th of March, closing up all airports around the country and keeping it that away until the end of March. Beside suspending all schools and universities in a quarantine attempt, the government is advising all citizens to stay inside and minimize social interactions -- if Egyptians are even able to do that. The government has also announced that while flights are cancelled, they're taking this opportunity to thoroughly disinfect all hotels and Nile cruises around the country. This will also happen while all the hotels in the Red Sea governorate are closed and put on quarantine for the period of two weeks. The country has also put hot air balloon rides on hold for now as many cases of the virus emerged on a Nile Cruise in Luxor.
For Lebanon, this pandemic is crisis in a crisis, the country’s having a hard time to deal with the virus while already dealing with an ongoing financial crisis. But the country has announced banning flights to and from Italy, South Korea, Iran, and China, beside announcing a state of medical emergencies, closing off all schools, universities, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and cultural centres, all in effort of taking control over the virus outbreak.
Morocco has suspended flights all together, which has led thousands of tourists to be stranded in the country after suddenly announcing strict border restrictions. Till now, travelers are stuck at borders, ports, and airports when the announcement was made. The kingdom has suspended air links with 21 countries, including Austria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland in Europe, as well Turkey and Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Tunisia, and the UAE.
The UAE had started out with drastic airport measures, checking up on every single passenger coming into the airport and quarantining if needed, but since not every country in the world has the luxury of doing that, UAE has suspended all visas temporarily, at least till all countries can find effective mechanism of medical screening on passengers before they board flights.
This pandemic is a major hit to the travel industry everywhere in the world. Flights -if they even take off- are deserted and tickets are getting cheaper by the minute. Airlines and airports are facing meltdowns as more and more countries suspend flights and ban entries. In comparison to a travel boom last year, 2020 is going to see a huge drop. Let’s just say we have a few interesting months ahead of us.