Saudi Arabia sets date to ease international flight restrictions
NEWS DIGEST – Saudi Arabia will partially lift its suspension on international flights from Tuesday, the interior ministry said, six months after travel curbs were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport for Saudi citizens “after January 1” next year, the ministry added on Sunday, adding that an exact date will be announced in December.
Gulf citizens and non-Saudis with valid residency permits or visas will be allowed to enter the kingdom from Tuesday as long as they are not infected with the virus, the ministry said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.
People in other “exceptional categories”, including Saudi government and military employees, embassy workers, students and people requiring medical treatment, will also be allowed to enter and exit the kingdom from Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia had suspended international flights in March, leaving many citizens and residents stranded overseas.
The ministry added that Saudi Arabia will later announce a plan to gradually allow the umrah pilgrimage.
Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round umrah in March over fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading to Islam’s holiest cities.
The kingdom also organised a scaled-down hajj in late July, with only up to 10,000 Muslims taking part in the annual pilgrimage, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated last year.
The kingdom has sought to contain a spike in infections, which have now risen to more than 325,000 cases — the highest in the Gulf — and over 4,200 deaths.
But Saudi Arabia has also reported a high rate of recoveries, which surpassed 302,000 on Sunday.
In June, the kingdom moved to end a coronavirus curfew across the kingdom and lift restrictions on businesses, including cinemas and other entertainment venues.