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Saudi Arabia to lift international travel ban on vaccinated citizens

Beginning May 17, Saudi citizens who have received the vaccine or have recovered from the virus in the last six months will be allowed to travel abroad.
A Saudi Boeing jet is seen at the gate at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) on Nov. 19, 2020.

Saudi Arabia will allow citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 to soon travel abroad, and the country will open its land, sea and air borders, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

"The decision to lift the suspension on citizens traveling outside Saudi Arabia will go into effect at 1 a.m. on 17 May," the ministry said in a statement.

Under the new policy, citizens who have received two doses or have received a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior will be allowed to travel. Those who have recovered from the virus in the last six months are also permitted to take international flights, as are those under the age of 18. Travelers must provide proof of their vaccine or previous coronavirus infection using the government’s Tawakkalna app.

Travelers returning from abroad must also quarantine for seven days at home upon their return to Saudi Arabia and take a COVID-19 test at the end of that week.

In March 2020, Saudi Arabia banned travel to and from the country in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Citing a delay in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments, the Interior Ministry announced late January that it was pushing back the lifting of travel restrictions for the public from March 31 to May 17.

In February, the kingdom banned the entry of non-citizens from the United States and 19 other countries, exempting diplomats, health care workers and their families. Those restrictions on “red list” countries will stay in place when the public travel ban is lifted later this month.

Arab News reported that Saudi Arabia “recorded a 110% month-on-month surge in people searching for flights in March,” according to global online travel platform Skyscanner. India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Egypt were among the most searched for international designations.