BEIRUT

Middle East

Saudi suspends labor visas for nations worst-hit by Ebola

People walk past a painted wall reading "Ebola" in Monrovia August 31, 2014. (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has stopped granting visas to workers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries worst-hit by the deadly Ebola virus, the Labor Ministry announced Monday.

The "preventive measure" is based on "directives from the foreign and health ministries to avoid" the spread of Ebola to the kingdom, the official news agency SPA reported.

The virus, for which there is no treatment or vaccine, has claimed 1,552 lives out of 3,069 reported cases - 694 in Liberia, 430 in Guinea, 422 in Sierra Leone and six in Nigeria, according to latest figures from the World Health Organization.

Saudi Arabia made a similar decision in April when it announced the suspension of visas for Muslim pilgrims from Guinea and Liberia.

The hajj annual pilgrimage, the world's biggest Muslim gathering, draws two million people to Saudi Arabia each year, including many from the West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. This year it falls in October.

The "temporary suspension" of labor visas from the three African nations "will not affect the labour market in Saudi Arabia" where the number of workers from these countries "is very little," SPA quoted deputy Labor Minister Mufrej al-Haqbani as saying.

He said laboratory tests before arrival were "strictly required" by the Labor Ministry for all foreigners coming from West Africa.

Apart from Nigeria, Ebola has also spread to Senegal.

 

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