Saudi citizens visiting the UAE are extending their stay after the kingdom said arrivals from the Emirates would be suspended.
The UAE is one of four countries from which Saudi Arabia restricted travel owing to the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant.
“We haven’t been able to travel for over a year. It’s incredibly hard for those of us who have extended family abroad,” said Ahmad Darwish, who travelled to Dubai to visit relatives.
“I had come on Wednesday to attend my sister’s wedding and found out on Friday that the country is closing up borders. I am meant to go back this week, so I am not panicking or flying back on Sunday, especially because I have both doses of the vaccine and I am not being irresponsible with health protocols.”
A 14-month ban on travel imposed on for Saudi citizens was lifted in May.
The Saudi Ministry of Interior said the latest ban would come into effect at 11pm on Sunday.
Arrivals from Ethiopia, Vietnam and Afghanistan have also been put on hold.
The kingdom has restricted travel without prior permission to the four countries and made quarantine mandatory for those arriving from them, except those who arrive by 11pm on Sunday evening.
“When the news broke out, my friends and family starting calling me frantically, so I immediately called Emirates and Saudia Airlines to find out if flights were cancelled,” Rayan Bukhari, a Saudi citizen, told The National.
“They just told me anyone who goes back after Sunday will have to undergo quarantine, but I can still go back. So I am planning to go end of the week as planned. I have come here to finish very important work.”
Saudia Airlines has stepped up its efforts to help bring back Saudi citizens and residents to the kingdom, by increasing the number of flights from 14 to 25. The airline aims to bring back 7,891 passengers on Sunday.
“For your convenience, we have added additional flights from Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam,” the airlines said in a tweet on Sunday.