Pakistani Umrah pilgrims to be compensated, says Saudi envoy

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The decision to put a temporary halt will apply to electronic visas obtained online and traditional ones issued upon arrival in the Kingdom. (Photo/Social media)
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All Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by the temporary travel ban to the Kingdom due to the threat of coronavirus will be compensated, the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan said. (AFP)
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Updated 29 February 2020

Pakistani Umrah pilgrims to be compensated, says Saudi envoy

  • “Passengers who have Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tickets will be able to get full refund from the PIA offices or their travel agents,” the airline’s spokesperson said
  • Saudi Arabia on Thursday placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims to prevent the spread of coronavirus

ISLAMABAD: All Pakistani Umrah pilgrims affected by the temporary travel ban to the Kingdom due to the threat of coronavirus will be compensated, the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said on Friday.

“Pakistani Umrah pilgrims who had to travel to Saudi Arabia during the dates of suspension will be compensated in the best possible way,” Al-Malki told Arab News on Friday. “They will be able to travel on the same visa or will be issued a fresh one free of charge.”
Saudi Arabia on Thursday placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Passengers who have Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tickets will be able to get full refund from the PIA offices or their travel agents,” the airline’s spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan told Arab News, adding that it was up to the passengers if they wanted to avail the refund option or get their seats readjusted after the ban.
Meanwhile, Saudi airlines also announced full refund of tickets through a circular.
“The Pakistani mission in Saudi Arabia is in touch with the Saudi authorities on this issue and will take all possible measures to facilitate Pakistani pilgrims,” Arshad Munir, spokesperson for the Pakistani Embassy in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
Faizan Akhtar, a member of Pakistan’s Umrah Travel Agents’ Association, said that the situation would become clear in the next few days, but all the passengers would get refunds or manage to travel on the same Umrah package after the ban.
“There was a previous incident of flight suspension during the Pakistani-Indian standoff last year which disturbed Umrah pilgrims. They were compensated by the Saudi authorities, who extended their visas without extra charges and airlines adjusted their seats accordingly. We haven’t received any official communication on this so far, but the situation will become clear in the next few days,” Akhtar said.
Earlier, the Ministry of Tourism announced that for the time being the Kingdom would no longer be approving passes for travelers from China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan.
The decision will apply to electronic visas obtained online and traditional ones issued upon arrival in the Kingdom. In addition, tourist visas already issued to residents of the listed countries will be temporarily suspended.

FASTFACT

The Ministry of Tourism announced that for the time being the Kingdom would no longer be approving passes for travelers from China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan.

Visas will still be available for citizens of other qualifying countries not on the list, but as a precaution they will not be allowed to visit the holy cities of Makkah or Madinah.
The ministry said that people in countries not eligible for electronic visas could check their Saudi travel status by calling the helpline 00966920000890. Residents of the US, the UK and Schengen nations could use the same number to inquire about obtaining a tourist visa.
Appreciation
The Muslim World League (MWL) has given its full support to the temporary precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom to ban foreign worshippers from entering the country before the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in line with international efforts to stop the spread of the killer virus.
MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said that the preventive measures were temporary and fell within the legitimate duty stipulated by Shariah law, stressing the importance of complying with international standards in this regard.
“The resolution stresses the Kingdom’s concern over the safety of pilgrims and visitors from the risk of spreading the disease and any leniency entails a great responsibility,” he added.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the action taken by Saudi Arabia would contribute to limiting the spread of the coronavirus in crowded places such as the Two Holy Mosques.
The Islamic Call Center for Latin America and the Caribbean States described the Kingdom’s preventive measures as “wise” and “in the public interest,” while Egypt’s Al-Azhar said: “These measures are permissible, legitimate and rewarded. Rather, they are a legal duty to protect people.”
The World Health Organization noted that the Kingdom’s moves would enable Saudi Arabia to implement sustainable measures to prevent and control the virus and protect crowds during this important season.


Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

Updated 08 April 2020

Seoul mulls electronic wristbands for quarantine violators 

  • Repeat offenders face $8,000 fines or up to one year in prison

SEOUL: South Korea is considering electronic wristbands as a way to track people who break quarantine conditions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The idea follows a rising number of people flouting the rules, leaving their homes despite the government’s tough stance against violations.

South Korea reported 53 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the nation’s total number of infections to 10,384, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the total number of reported deaths rose to 200. 

“A majority of people are following self-isolation rules, but there have been some cases of (people) leaving (designated venues),” Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the Ministry of Health, told reporters. “Unless the self-isolation rules are observed, it will make the government consider various options to prevent such a move.”

Authorities were looking for practical and effective ways to monitor people isolated at homes and facilities, he said, adding there were concerns about electronic wristbands in terms of privacy and the infringements of rights.

The electronic wristband, which would be connected to a mobile app, would trigger an alarm and alert authorities when it moved more than 10 meters away from the smartphone installed with the app, ministry officials said.

South Korea has a two-week quarantine period for all international arrivals. Authorities have found 75 people breaching the self-isolation rules, and six of them are to be prosecuted.

The government has increased penalties for quarantine violators to a maximum one-year jail term or $8,000 in fines.

Several people, including foreign nationals, have in recent weeks broken the self-isolation rules put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

The city of Gunpo, south of Seoul, reported a married couple in their 50s to the police for ignoring the rules. Health authorities found that the couple, who had tested positive for the virus, went out several times during the self-isolation period to visit an art gallery, lottery shops, supermarkets, and banks.  

In Gunsan, around 270 kilometers south of Seoul, three Vietnamese students were found leaving their quarantine premises without permission on April 3. They went out, leaving their smartphones behind to avoid being tracked by the authorities. The Ministry of Justice is now considering deporting the students.