Saudi Arabia is easing some of its coronavirus-related travel restrictions to allow “exceptional categories” of its citizens and residents to fly in and out of the kingdom.
In mid-March, the Saudi government suspended all international flights as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Domestic flights resumed May 31, but international travel remained restricted.
Saudi Arabia will make exceptions to the international flight ban with public sector and military employees "assigned to official tasks" allowed to enter and exit the country beginning Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA. Others allowed to travel abroad include diplomats and their families, students on scholarships, sports teams and patients seeking medical treatment outside of the kingdom.
The government will also allow "entry to and departure from the kingdom for citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states" starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday if they first test negative for COVID-19.
Non-Saudis who obtain work permits, valid residency or other visas can also enter, SPA reported. All travelers to Saudi Arabia must present proof that they have tested negative for the coronavirus within 48 hours of their arrival.
The Saudi government plans to lift all restrictions on air, sea and land travel by Jan. 1, 2021, SPA reported, “in light of the possibility of no safe and effective vaccine for this disease by the end of 2020.”
The Interior Ministry also said it will be announcing a plan to resume the umrah pilgrimage, which was suspended in March. Saudi religious authorities held a drastically scaled-down hajj pilgrimage this summer.
Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Gulf. The Saudi Ministry of Health announced 607 more infections on Monday, bringing the total recorded to 326,258. The death toll from coronavirus in Saudi Arabia stands at 4,305.