Saudi Arabia To Ban Unvaccinated Citizens From Foreign Travel

All airlines based in Saudi Arabia have received a directive from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) stating that only vaccinated citizens can travel internationally. Unvaccinated citizens will no longer be allowed to leave the kingdom. The new rules will come into force on August 9th.

Saudi Arabia To Ban Unvaccinated Citizens From Foreign Travel
Saudi Arabia will prevent unvaccinated citizens from leaving the Kingdom on international flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

According to reporting by the Saudi Gazette, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) stated that only citizens who had received two doses of any approved vaccine would be allowed to travel internationally. The kingdom recognizes the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson Johnson vaccines.

There are two exceptions to the rule. Saudi citizens under the age of 12 don’t need to be vaccinated. However, they must take out insurance approved by the Saudi Central Bank to protect against the risk of infection.

The second exception states that if a citizen can prove they had the virus within the last six months and have had one dose of the vaccine, they can travel abroad. All public and private airlines and airports have been informed of the new rules. However, it isn’t clear if airlines will be held responsible for enforcing the new law or if other authorities will be accountable for ensuring unvaccinated citizens don’t fly internationally.

A ban of up to three years

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Interior also warned citizens against traveling to countries on the kingdom’s no-fly list. The red list includes the UAE, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, Armenia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, and Belarus.  India, Iran, and Vietnam are also on the list.

Saudi Arabia To Ban Unvaccinated Citizens From Foreign Travel
Anyone caught traveling to countries on the red list, like the UAE, faces a travel ban of three years. Photo: Getty Images.

The ministry issued the warning after several citizens ignored the advice and violated restrictions. Anyone traveling to one of the red-list countries faces a fine and an international travel ban lasting three years.

Preventative measures

The current number of cases of COVID-19 in the kingdom is slightly higher than in recent months, although the kingdom isn’t currently in the grips of a new wave. Data shows the kingdom is averaging just over 1,00 new cases a day, with a similar number declared as “recovered” each day. This suggests that the measures are preventative rather than reactionary.

Only vaccinated citizens will be able to leave the country, putting further strain on the airlines. Photo: Getty Images

The new rules will surely encourage more citizens to get the vaccine. Around 22% of citizens are fully vaccinated, with almost 26 million doses given out in total. The kingdom also pushed vaccines earlier this year, stating that anyone undertaking the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca would need to be vaccinated.

The new restrictions are a further blow to airlines. Currently, the kingdom is closed for anyone traveling on a tourist visa. Now, with millions of citizens unable to travel internationally, airlines will be severely impacted.

The kingdom recently announced a massive investment in its tourism industry, hoping to attract 100 million tourists annually. Certainly, airlines like Saudia will benefit. It also said it hoped to would also be able to encourage some citizens to spend their holidays domestically. Imposing international travel restrictions on unvaccinated citizens is undoubtedly going to encourage them to holiday near home.

What do you think of the new restrictions? Should more countries impose similar restrictions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.