Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns across the Middle East

Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns across the Middle East
As the novel coronavirus spread across the Middle East, several countries have closed their borders, grounded fights and imposed travel restrictions for both citizens and tourists.
5 min read
27 March, 2020
Countries are tightening borders [Getty]
Countries across the world have shut down borders, grounded flights and pressed upon their public the importance of social isolation in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

In the Middle East, countries have taken, at times, extreme measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, which as of yet has no cure.

Below are some steps taken by the Middle East and North Africa countries to limit movement and help curb the spread of the virus.

Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia

Last week Algeria took the decision to close its borders and suspend flights to Europe, after a rise in coronavirus cases in the North African country.

Algerian authorities had earlier suspended flights with Morocco, Spain, France and China and on 19 March extended the suspension to Europe.

Minister Abdelaziz Djerad revealed the plans in a statement to the public, and said the suspension will be temporary and "will be accompanied by arrangements for evacuating our citizens currently abroad".

There are currently 367 coronavirus cases in Algeria, 25 deaths and 29 recovered patients.

Morocco suspended flights to the UK from 16 March and return flights from 19 March in an effort to curb the virus.

Passenger ferry links between Morocco, Spain and Gibraltar have also been suspended.

Across the country, restaurants, bars and other public spaces have closed.

Meanwhile, Tunisia closed its land border with Algeria for the first time in the history of the two countries.

The closure of borders did not include commercial crossings, which remain open for the transport of goods.

Tunisia also banned entry to UK travellers, suspended flights and closed sea borders.

The North African country enacted a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. curfew and placed restrictions on non-essential movement, which made an exception for food shopping and access to medical care.

Cultural and sporting activities are prohibited.


Egypt has announced plans to ban UK travellers on entry until 31 March, and all air traffic has also been suspended until 31 March.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly banned on entry to UK travellers until 31 March. All air traffic suspended from 19 to 31 March.


The Iraqi government says it will extend a countrywide lockdown it imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic until April 11.

Schools, universities, shopping centres and other large gathering places will remain closed.

Read More: Trapped between Israel's occupation and coronavirus: How are Palestinians coping with the pandemic?

Israel, Palestine

Israel ordered travellers arriving from Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland to go into home quarantine over coronavirus concerns and cancelled a military exercise with troops from the US European Command.

Earlier this month Israel imposed the edict with regard to flights from Italy, China and Singapore.

Israel will deploy 500 troops to assist police on street patrols to enforce a lockdown against the coronavirus epidemic, the military said on Friday.

Israel has reported more than 3,000 infections and 10 deaths from the illness.


On March 17 Jordan closed border crossings with Israel and the West Bank, and its seaports to shipping from Egypt.
In addition, it barred overland passenger traffic from Iraq.

The government also banned travel to Lebanon and Syria and barred entry to travellers from France, Germany and Spain.

Airline services to Egypt have also been reduced by half.


The Kuwaiti government banned all commercial passenger flights to and from Kuwait.


Lebanon stopped all flights to and from Italy, South Korea, China and Iran, as well as France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. Its airport remains closed until mid-April.

Beirut announced a state of "medical emergency" earlier this month, closing all public and private institutions except hospitals, pharmacies and bakeries in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.


The Government of National Accord (GNA), Libya's UN-recognised authority in Tripoli suspended all flights at the Misrata Airport for three weeks in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

Read More: 'May God help us': Panic grips caged Gaza Strip after first coronavirus cases

The country's borders have also closed.


The UAE has suspended all flights, grounding Emirates and Etihad its state airline.


On March 15, Qatar said it would ban inbound flights, except for cargo and transit flights, starting from March 18 but the ban does not apply to Qatari citizens.

In a controversial move, Qatar has not closed its Doha airport to flights, and on Thursday announced an increase in flights to and from Australia.

Qatar Airways has pledged to "clear the backlog" of people wanting to get home from Asia, Africa and Australasia, in contravention to the much of the world, which has ground flights in an effort to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

Saudi Arabia

The Gulf kingdom temporarily suspended travel to Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

The ban was later extended to include France, Germany, Spain and Turkey according to a statement released by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Oman has suspended all tourist visas for a period of one month from March 15.


The Sudan authorities closed all airports, port and land crossings on March 16.

Humanitarian, commercial and technical support shipments are still allowed into the country.


Turkey has enacted strict and far-reaching travel restrictions going into and out of the country.

It has closed its land borders with Greece and Bulgaria, state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Wednesday, and suspended flights to a total of 68 countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, China, South Korea, Iran and Iraq.


The Yemeni government said on March 14 it would suspend all flights to and from airports under its control for two weeks starting from March 18.

A statement from the office of Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said the move exempted flights for humanitarian purposes.

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