Saudi Arabia has reopened for international travel, allowing those vaccinated against COVID-19 to go abroad for the first time in more than a year.
In an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Saudi Arabia banned most travel to and from the country in March 2020. Earlier this month, the Interior Ministry announced an easing of the travel ban that would allow citizens who have received two doses or have received a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to travel beginning May 17.
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 who travel with insurance. Travelers must provide proof of their vaccine or previous coronavirus infection using the government’s Tawakkalna app.
State carrier Saudia will operate flights to 71 cities, including New York, Cairo, Paris and Washington. Travelers returning from abroad must quarantine for seven days at home and take a COVID-19 test at the end of that week.
On Sunday, the ministry said special permissions are still needed to travel to 13 countries considered unsafe due to security and instability. Direct and indirect flights to Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Congo, India, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen remain banned.
The Gulf country of some 30 million people has administered more than 11.5 million vaccines since mid-December, health officials say.
A vaccine will be required to attend the upcoming hajj, the Saudi Health Ministry announced earlier this month. Reuters reported that for the second year in a row, Saudi Arabia is considering barring international travelers from attending.
The hajj normally attracts up to 2.5 million Muslims from around the world. Last July, coronavirus concerns forced the kingdom to scale back the pilgrimage to just 10,000 Saudi residents.