In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and its more infectious Delta variant, Saudi Arabia will slap a three-year travel ban on its citizens who visit destinations on the kingdom’s “red list” of coronavirus hotspots, the Saudi news agency SPA said Tuesday.
"Traveling to the banned countries is an obvious violation of COVID-19-related travel restrictions and the kingdom's updated instructions," SPA quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying.
“Those who violate the travel ban will be held accountable and slapped with heavy penalties," including a ban on traveling abroad for a period of three years, the source said.
Countries currently on the “red list” include Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Saudi health authorities announced 1,334 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to more than 522,100 since the start of the pandemic. The kingdom has recorded 8,200 deaths from the virus.
Since beginning its nationwide inoculation campaign in December, the conservative Gulf country of 30 million people has administered at least one vaccine dose to more than 50% of the population.
In May, Saudi Arabia reopened for international travel, allowing those vaccinated against COVID-19 to go abroad for the first time since most travel outside the kingdom’s borders was banned in March 2020. Beginning Aug. 9, citizens will need both vaccine doses to go abroad.
Earlier this month, Riyadh announced it was banning travel to and from Ethiopia, the UAE, Vietnam and Afghanistan. Citing coronavirus concerns, Indonesia was added to the banned countries list last week.