Saudi Arabia’s flagship national carrier, Saudia, announced it will resume international flights to 43 destinations beginning May 17. The measure is part of the kingdom’s plans to ease COVID-19-related international travel restrictions on its citizens. Effective May 17, the government will permit international travel for Saudi nationals who meet any of the following criteria:
Have received two full doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, or received one dose with at least 14 days having elapsed since the shot was administered; or
Have recovered from COVID-19 within the previous six months; or
Are under the age of 18 (travelers under the age of 18 must undergo a one-week quarantine period).
Despite the new directives, a number of restrictions on international travel remain in effect. Entry to Saudi Arabia is still prohibited for travelers from Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and the US. The entry ban also applies to travelers who transited through any of these countries within 14 days prior to their arrival in the kingdom. Only diplomats, Saudi citizens, medical practitioners, and their families are exempt from the measure. Authorities have yet to specify how long the ban may remain in effect.
Only non-Saudis who hold valid exit and entry, work, or residency visas are currently permitted to enter Saudi Arabia; travelers with tourist visas are barred from entry. Authorities are requiring all non-Saudis, except for children aged eight and under, to present a negative COVID-19 test to travel to Saudi Arabia. The COVID-19 test must have been administered within no more than 72 hours prior to departing for the kingdom; travelers who do not provide the requisite negative test result will be barred from boarding their flight. Travelers are required to complete a health disclaimer form and download and register on the Tatamman and Tawakkalna applications prior to arrival in Saudi Arabia. All arrivals are subject to a maximum of seven days’ home quarantine; however, the quarantine period may be reduced to three days upon the completion of an additional COVID-19 test.
Only immunized worshippers are permitted to visit the kingdom’s holy sites for Ramadan, which is slated to end May 13. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that permits will be issued to individuals who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, individuals who received the first dose of the vaccine at least 14 days prior, and individuals who have recovered from the disease. The new restrictions come amid a surge in local COVID-19 cases.
Indoor dining in restaurants and cafes has resumed and cinemas, malls, and gyms have reopened. Establishments that remain open must implement enhanced COVID-19 sanitization procedures, perform temperature checks of employees and patrons, and comply with social distancing guidelines. Large gatherings such as weddings and corporate events remain banned; the maximum number allowed in a gathering is limited to 20 people.
Authorities could reintroduce restrictions if there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases; associated protocols could be ambiguous and occasionally contradictory.
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all business appointments and travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.
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