COVID-19: How Gulf countries are bracing themselves

COVID-19: How Gulf countries are bracing themselves
Doctors check a traveller in their designated residential area to check on residents who returned from Iran if anyone is infected with the novel coronavirus, at Isa Town Health Center, south of Manama, Bahrain, on March 2. Photo: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

In the backdrop of widespread transmission of COVID-19, almost all West Asian governments have issued strict border controls. Here is a general overview of the guidelines from various departments.

The United Arab Emirates

Though the United Arab Emirates has stopped issuing visas to visitors, Emirates Airlines officials have said that citizens of some countries can avail of visa on arrival from the airport. Citizens of 45 countries can expect visa on arrival if they are travelling on Emirates Airlines. The preferred countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cypress, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Vatican and the United Kingdom and the United States. Italians from Rome may also be issued visa on arrival.

Passengers will have to go through a thermal scanner in the airport to screen them for infections of the novel coronavirus. The test will be before the customs checks.

Countries to suspend airline ops

Bahrain, Iraq (since March 17), Iran, Italy (excluding Rome), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon (from March 17), China, Syria (since March 17) and Turkey (since March 17).

Airlines to suspend operations

Go Air has cancelled its services from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat to Mumbai, Delhi and Kannur sectors until April 15. Indigo has also cancelled its flights from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah to Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Lucknow, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Mangaluru sectors until March 28. Air India Express has cancelled its flights from the Sharjah and Dubai sectors to Kochi, Mangaluru and Pune sectors for some days.

Abu Dhabi Port authorities have barred cruise ships from entering Port Saeed and Sir Bani Yas Cruise Ship Beach until further notice. The restriction is applicable to local and international cruises. The authorities, however, said that they would ensure all emergency services for the staff of the vessels anchored off the Abu Dhabi limit.

Work from home

Government employees in the UAE have been asked to work from home for two weeks starting Monday. The requirement may be extended later. Pregnant women, mothers of children below nine years, differently abled persons, people with low immunity levels and people aged above 60 years can work remotely. They have been asked to coordinate with their human resources departments to ensure smooth flow of work.

Dubai Global Village shut

The Dubai Global Village has been closed down. Archaeological sites, historical centres, libraries, theme parks, movie halls, gymnasiums and parks have also been closed down in the emirate. Sharjah has also closed all of its public parks. Beaches and gyms in Fujairah remain closed until further notice. Abu Dhabi has closed beaches and movie halls. The UAE Football Association has postponed the under-19 tournament. The association has also suspended the women’s football matches and other activities.

Prayer goes digital

The Church of South India has taken its prayers online to cope with COVID-19. Faced with a shortage of sanitizers, educational institutions are trying to develop their own solutions.


Oman has barred all visitors from March 17. The ban is not applicable to citizens of GCC countries. All entrants to the country must be quarantined. Expatriates can enter the country only with a medical certificate showing that they have been tested negative for the novel coronavirus. Even then they have to be quarantined for 14 days. Tourist visas will not be issued to anyone. Cruise ships have been barred from the country’s ports.

Oman will have no Juma prayers from Friday. Gatherings have been banned even for funerals. Weddings and leisure activities have been banned too. Parks will be closed. Holidays have been declared for all education institutions in the country.

Saudi Arabia

Expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia who have travelled to their homeland will have to return within 72 hours. If they could not, their re-entry visa period will be extended if the sponsor requests. Flight services have been suspended to coronavirus-affected countries. Tourists visas have been put on hold.

Anyone who has returned to the country should stay home for 14 days without any public contact. They will be granted medical leave for the period. Shipping services have been suspended from 50 countries including India. There is no ban on cargo traffic. Visitors already in Saudi Arabia can expect their tourist visa to be extended because of the travel ban.

16 days holidays

The home department in Saudi Arabia has declared a 16-day holiday for all government employees except those working in the health, security and military sectors from March 16. Public and private services will continue online.

All shopping malls have been shut. The restrictions are applicable to all public places like restaurants and children’s parks. Supermarkets and pharmacies in malls will be functional. Eating out in restaurants and hanging out in cafes have been banned.

Any function that draws more than 50 people has been prohibited. All arts and sports programmes run by public agencies or private groups have been banned. All sports matches have been put on hold.


Kuwait has asked all foreigners who have entered the country after February 27 to undergo medical tests. Those who refuse to cooperate will face punitive measures. An international expo site has been turned into a coronavirus testing centre. They have to appear for tests on the appointed date with civil identification card and passport. Bus services have been suspended until further notice.

All retail stores excluding those which sell food have been ordered to shut. All malls have been closed down. Restaurants and cafes should not entertain more than five customers at a time. Those who are lining up for their turn should keep at least a metre’s distance. Marriage celebrations should be confined to houses. No gathering is permitted in community centres and auditoriums. Barber shops have been closed down. All entertainment centres and gyms are shut.

All masjids have stopped the namaz including the Friday Juma prayers. The National Evangelical Church has called off its programmes indefinitely. The church will keep its prayer hall open for individuals though.

CBSE exams postponed

Schools in Kuwait have put on hold the CBSE exams. The new exam dates will be notified later. The government will take to task the establishments that defy the official regulations to counter the spread of COVID-19. Licences of non-complying establishments may be cancelled permanently and all personnel sponsored by such institutions may be deported.


Aircraft will be banned entry to the Hamad International Airport in Doha from March 18. Public transport modes have been stopped for 14 days starting March 15 night. Cargo aircraft have been exempt from the order. Passenger services will be limited to returning Qatari residents stranded in other countries such as Sudan and Jordan.

Those who are left out of the country at the time of renewing their national ids can enter the country once the travel ban is lifted even if their permits have expired. Qatar has banned entry of citizens of 14 countries including India.

All bank loan instalments have been suspended for six months. Students in government schools can start distance studies from next Sunday. All educational institutions have been closed down. A primary health care centre has been converted as a COVID-19 diagnosis centre. The centre will also have facilities to monitor people showing symptoms.

The Qatar Foundation has suspended operations. Employees have been asked to work remotely from their houses. The public will be denied entry to the Qatar National Library in Education City. They can, however, avail of the library’s online services. Tram services in Education City have been suspended. The Qatar Foundation Recreation Centre and the Education City Club House have been closed.

The Indian Cultural Centre has postponed the Yuva Kala Sandhya planned for March 26.


All entrants to Bahrain should undergo medical tests. Bahrain has put in place internationally recognised guidelines to counter the spread of Covid 19. People from coronavirus-infected places should stay home. Those who refuse to quarantine themselves may be arrested.

Bahrain has exempted its government employees from recording their fingerprints while coming for work and leaving. Schools are shut but the educational department has put in place a system to offer online training.

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