Saudis breaking COVID travel rules face 3-year exit ban

Published July 28, 2021, 6:11 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia warned on Tuesday that citizens visiting destinations on its list of countries blacklisted due to COVID-19 will face three-year travel bans following their return.

Those found to have travelled to restricted countries would face “hefty penalties… as well as being prevented from travelling abroad for a period of three years”, the interior ministry said on Twitter.

“Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the spread of new variants, the ministry warns against travelling to countries on its (restricted) list, whether directly or indirectly via other countries.” According to the kingdom’s state airline Saudia, citizens are barred from travelling to 16 countries, including the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

In its latest update to travel restrictions earlier this month, Riyadh said it had suspended flights to the UAE, Ethiopia and Vietnam to protect against a coronavirus variant.

The move comes after the oil-rich kingdom permitted fully immunised citizens to travel abroad, after a ban on foreign trips that lasted more than a year.

The UAE, and especially the emirate of Dubai, is a key leisure destination for Saudis.

The decision was taken due to “the spread of a new mutated strain of the (Covid-19) virus”, the interior ministry said at the time, without explicitly mentioning the increasingly widespread Delta variant.

The variant, first detected in India and now present in dozens of countries around the world, is the most contagious of any Covid-19 strain yet identified.

The UAE announced in June it had recorded cases of the Delta variant.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile put major limits on the annual hajj pilgrimage in an effort to combat infections.

It has officially recorded more than 520,000 cases of coronavirus, including 8,189 deaths.

 
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