Saudi Arabia on Tuesday suspended entry from 20 countries, ranging from some neighboring states to the United States, in a bid to curb a jump in coronavirus infections. The interior ministry announced the “temporary suspension” would be effective from 9.00 pm (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The ban applies to neighboring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and in the wider region, to Lebanon and Turkey but it excludes Nigeria.

In Europe, the ban includes Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. Elsewhere, as well as the US, it applies to Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan and South Africa.

Saudi citizens, as well as diplomats and health workers coming from those countries, will be allowed to enter the kingdom “in accordance with the precautionary measures”, it added. The announcement comes after Saudi’s health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah warned on Sunday that new coronavirus restrictions could be imposed if citizens and residents do not comply with health restrictions.

Saudi Arabia has reported more than 368,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 6,400 deaths, the highest among Gulf Arab states. Daily infections dipped below 100 in early January, from a peak of nearly 5,000 last June.

However, new daily infections have tripled since then, with 310 cases reported by the health ministry on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign on December 17 after receiving the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

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