For the first time in over a year, Saudi Arabia reopened its airports, seaports and land border crossings yesterday, permitting its citizens to travel outside the kingdom as it eased its travel ban aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The General Directorate of Passports had specified eligibility criteria for those nationals wishing to travel abroad. Saudi citizens allowed to travel include those who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, those who received one dose at least two weeks prior to travel, those recovering from the Covid within six months from the date of travel, and citizens under 18-years-old as long as they have a travel insurance policy approved by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), covering the risks of COVID-19 outside the country before travel.

However, due the spread of COVID-19 and new variants seen in certain nations, there is a list of 13 countries to which Saudi citizens are not permitted to travel directly or indirectly. Without prior approvals from authorities, citizens are banned from travelling to Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia also announced that from May 20 foreign nationals of most countries entering the kingdom will no longer be required to quarantine if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, or have had COVID-19 and recovered. Currently, all visitors need to quarantine for a period of seven to 14 days depending on the countries where they are coming from, and provide negative PCR tests.

All travellers arriving in Saudi Arabia ‘must obtain and show proof’ of two doses of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna, or one from Johnson & Johnson. Those travelling to the kingdom after only one dose of the vaccine or with a negative PCR test must undergo seven days of quarantine at their own expense.

“The GACA (General Authority of Civil Aviation) stressed on the air carriers the need to carry all travellers who are not Saudi citizens and the exempted travellers, immunized and unvaccinated groups the health certificates approved in the Kingdom (Coronavirus examination certificates PCR) not exceeding 72 hours from the flight time for those over 8 years or older, while non-citizen immunized persons are allowed entry…,” said the GACA in a statement.

From Monday, Saudia will operate flights to 71 destinations, including 43 international destinations. Among them are Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Athens, Frankfurt, Washington and New York.

Non-Saudi citizens from 20 nations, including the U.S., U.K, UAE and France, remain to be banned from entering the kingdom due to the continuing COVID-19 spread in these counties.


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