Easing a ban on international travel, imposed last year for containing the spread of the COVID-19 infections, Saudi Arabia on Monday allowed its vaccinated citizens to travel abroad for the first time in 14 months. Residents who have received at least one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to depart the country under the new guidelines.
Authorities will also allow people who have recently recovered from the COVID-19 and minors under 18 years of age with travel insurance to travel abroad, Aljazeera reported.
Starting May 17, the kingdom’s flagship carrier, Saudia, will operate flights to 71 destinations, including 43 international destinations like Cairo, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Athens, Frankfurt, Washington and New York.
This came as a breather mostly to the Saudi students, studying abroad, who were affected by the ban that was in place since March 2020.
In recent months, the country has vaccinated close to 11.5 million residents with at least one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to an Aljazeera report.
The easing of rules prompted a huge rush of people going out of the kingdom, especially following the Eid holiday.
Saudi Arabia, which has been covering the cost of the coronavirus-related hospitalizations for citizens, imposed some of the most sweeping measures to prevent the spread of the disease since the beginning of the pandemic. It even scaled-down the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, sealing its borders to travellers.
Now that the travel ban has eased, Saudi travellers will have to show their health statuses to airport officials through the government’s app, Tawakkalna.
Meanwhile, those returning from abroad will have to be quarantined at home and get themselves tested for the novel Coronavirus.
However, travel from high-risk nations including India among others is still restricted.
Also, with limited exception, foreigners from 20 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and France, will remain banned from entering the country.
Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 4,30,000 COVID-19 cases, including over 7,160 deaths so far. There are close to 1,400 active critical cases as of now.
It is to be noted that the kingdom had opened up for international tourism in September 2019, just before the coronavirus disease outbreak.