Both Emirates and Etihad Airways have temporarily suspended flights to Saudi Arabia amid fears of a new strain of COVID-19. The Saudi Arabian government issued a directive last night restricting entry into the kingdom and suspending international flights for at least one week. It has also suspended entry via land borders and seaports.
The news from the Middle East comes just days after European countries imposed fresh restrictions on the UK. According to the Saudi Ministry of the Interior, the new travel restrictions are a direct result of growing concern about the new strain. All international flights have been suspended for one week, with the potential to extend this for another week.
Emirates came forward with a statement saying,
“Due to the closure of borders as directed by the Saudi authorities, Emirates will be suspending flights to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until 27th December.”
Etihad has taken it a step further and has suspended all flights until further notice.
In a statement to Gulf News, Etihad said, “The safety of its customers and crew is Etihad’s highest priority, and we regret any inconvenience the suspension may cause.” Air Arabia has also followed suit and has suspended flights until further notice.
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More suspensions coming
Saudi Arabia imposed further sanctions on anyone who will arrive in the country has been to Europe or any other country where the new strain is detected. Anyone who fits these criteria will need to self-isolate for two weeks and take a test.
Other Middle-Eastern countries are taking similar precautions; Kuwait, Israel, and Iran have all ordered temporary flight suspensions to and from the UK. If more new strain cases are found in other countries, others will likely follow Saudi Arabia and suspend all international flights. The new strain has already been found in Italy.
Saudi Arabia has been pretty quick to enforce bans and suspensions in the past. It placed a temporary ban on flights to and from India in September after concerns about India’s number of cases. The Kingdom had closed its border in March and kept them closed for a full six months before it looked to ease restrictions in September.
The original plan was for the border to reopen fully on January 1st, 2021. However, with the new strain causing more concerns, this looks extremely unlikely. Current restrictions are in place until December 27th, meaning anyone hoping to enter the Kingdom for Christmas will be disappointed. There have been no extra measures imposed inside the borders. Gatherings can still take place with up to 50 people, and businesses are open. Officials are clearly focused on preventing the new strain from entering the kingdom.
What do you think of the new restrictions? Will we see more nations follow Saudi Arabia and close their borders completely? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.