New COVID-19 Strain: Saudi Arabia Allows Travel, Maintains Restrictions

The Middle-Eastern kingdom closed its international borders for two weeks after the emergence of the new COVID-19 strain in the UK.

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Saudi Arabia has lifted the temporary international travel ban it imposed on December 20, 2020, as a preventive measure against the new strain of COVID-19 discovered in the UK.

The reopening of Saudi international borders went into effect on Sunday, January 3, the Saudi Ministry of the Interior has announced.

“Entry into the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] by air, land, and sea will resume at 11 a.m. Sunday,” the ministry said in a statement.

Saudi authorities, however, announced several restrictions for travelers coming from countries where the new strain of COVID-19 has been detected.

Non-Saudis coming from the UK, South Africa, or any country that has recorded cases of the new COVID-19 strain, have to stay at least 14 days out of these countries before entering Saudi Arabia.

Saudis, meanwhile, are allowed to enter their country despite coming from countries with the new COVID-19 strain, on the condition they undergo a 14-day quarantine period.

The UK government first announced the emergence of the new COVID-19 strain in mid-December, saying the new variant could be 70% more transmissible than the previously-recorded strains.

The announcement put other countries on high alert, leading many of them, including Morocco and Saudi Arabia, to suspend flights with the UK.

The new COVID-19 strain, however, has since spread to at least 32 other countries, including South Africa, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Australia, China, and the US.

So far, Lebanon, the UAE, Turkey, Israel, and Jordan are the only countries in the Middle East and North Africa region that have reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant.

It remains to be seen whether the travel restrictions that countries such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco have implemented will be enough to prevent the “more transmissible” COVID-19 from entering their soil.