From 1am on the 17th of May, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on its citizens from travelling abroad. This includes all borders (air, land and sea) as reported by the Xinhua News Agency.
For the past 14 months, Saudi nationals were prevented from travelling abroad due to a fear that a COVID outbreak could occur in the region. But since the Kingdom vaccinated over 11.5 million people out of the 30 million population with at least one jab, restrictions can be eased.
Citizens can travel if they have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, or received one dose 14 days prior to the day of travel, and if they have recovered from the infection and not yet received the vaccine, provided the dates for travel is 6 months before the date of recovery. These details should be confirmed on the Tawakkalna app, the official KSA contact tracing app.
Citizens under 18 years old can also travel. However, an insurance policy should be submitted and approved by the Saudi Central Bank prior to travel. On arrival to KSA, these citizens will have to be in home quarantine for 7 days, after which a PCR test must be conducted. KSA citizens under the age of 8 are exempt from the PCR test.
Citizens who travel must obtain travel insurance which is valid for 30 days. This should be done a day before their departure, according to the Council of Co-operative Health Insurance, as this will cover COVID related healthcare costs.
A source from Jawazat (General Directorate of Passports) in Jeddah told The National that travellers and residents who have been vaccinated must "ensure they have a valid visa before entering the kingdom and cannot be travelling indirectly or directly to places marked unsafe by the ministry,”
Additionally, the passport authorities urge GCC citizens and new visa holders travelling to the Kingdom to electronically register their proof of vaccination before their arrival. This can be done via the Muqeem vaccine registration page. This would reduce waiting times at the entry points.
Institutional quarantine will be imposed on all passengers arriving to the Kingdom from May 20th, a decision the Ministry announced based on the recommendations by health authorities. However, Saudi nationals (including their spouses and children) would be exempted from the quarantine. Passengers who have received COVID-19 vaccines will be exempt from the institutional quarantine. Diplomats and their families, as well as official delegations will also be exempt from institutional quarantine, but will have to home quarantine and would need to obtain a valid health insurance policy in order to cover the risks of COVID-19.
Prepare for take-off:
KSA authorities announced that international flights will operate at full capacity. Saudi Arabian Airlines has completed its preparation to operate flights to 71 destinations from 95 airports, it said in a statement reported by Arab News. This includes 28 domestic and 43 international destinations.
Bandar Al Nawash, a passenger waiting in the departure lounge of King Khalid International Airport "It's a great feeling, thank God, we are happy, especially after the difficult period we and the entire world have suffered."
NDTV reported another national traveller Faisal Al Tamimi said he had expected large crowds at the airport. However, after the suspension was lifted at 1am, early Monday saw a few travellers.
The Kingdom opened its borders on May 17th and on that day, more than 78,740 Saudi citizens travelled abroad and on the 18th of May, more than 40,000 travelled abroad, passport authorities said.
Since the ban on travel last year, residents have been allowed to leave the country but not return, even though flights resumed from August.
While residents have been allowed to leave the country, they had not been able to return since the travel ban last year despite flights being resumed from August. An increase in COVID-19 cases resulted in a flight ban in the Kingdom earlier this year.
A Saudi airlines source told the National, “We have had a lot of bookings from residents over the past week, who are travelling to nearby [destinations] like Bahrain and Dubai instead of going back to home countries like India, which is on the list of suspended countries due to the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases.”
Precautionary measures will continue to take place in flights and in airports to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom. Appropriate precautionary and preventive measures need to be adhered to, being mindful in applying health requirements and taking precautions when travelling to high-risk countries are also important, officials stressed.
The Tawakkalna app should be used by all travellers to keep themselves updated as announcements are posted on the app. All travel updates are subject to continuous evaluation by the Public Health Authority, a source told Gulf News.