Saudi Arabia lifts UAE travel ban

Kingdom moves to relax coronavirus restrictions and allow fully vaccinated residents to return from red-list countries

A security woman checks the temperature of a woman at Riyadh International Airport, after Saudi Arabia reopened domestic flights, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
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Saudi Arabia will lift travel restrictions from the UAE, South Africa and Argentina on Wednesday morning, the kingdom's Interior Ministry has announced.

As of 11am, the three countries are no longer on Saudi Arabia's red list meaning that people can travel to and from those destinations.

The Interior Ministry announcement on Tuesday night came after an evaluation of the Covid-19 situation, state media reported.

The change comes as part of a relaxation in coronavirus measures in the kingdom, such as allowing vaccinated residents to return to Saudi Arabia, even from red-list countries.

Saudi Arabia banned travel to the UAE on July 4 because of a surge in Covid-19 cases but the kingdom reassesses its red list of countries regularly and has been removing those with an improving coronavirus situation. Riyadh was concerned about the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

Saudis expressed joy at the prospect of being able to travel to the UAE. Saudi Arabia was the second-biggest source of tourists to Dubai in 2020 after India, Dubai Tourism said.

“This is the best news for me, personally," Mansour Al Saadi, a Saudi citizen living in Riyadh told The National. "I had crucial business in Dubai and had to fly out the day Saudi Arabia announced the ban. I remember leaving my apartment and a few belongings there within hours of the announcement. I’m going to fly out this weekend.”

For others, it meant a welcome break.

“Finally! My friends and I can’t wait to travel to Dubai. We haven’t travelled since the outbreak of the pandemic as we didn’t want to risk being stuck abroad," said Samar Darwish, a Saudi citizen living in Jeddah. "I am going to apply for leave this month. Dubai is my favourite place to be and trust me you’ll see all Saudis rushing there."

The move by the kingdom comes weeks before the start of Expo 2020 – a six-month-long global event involving 191 countries in Dubai that the government hopes will attract millions of visitors.

The world fair, which begins on October 1 with a grand event and runs through to March 2022, is one of the largest international events to take place since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Saudi Arabia's move to allow travel to and from the UAE is the latest in a number of travel changes since the country opened up for the first time in 17 months in July.

At the end of August, a ban on travel from 20 countries, including India, Pakistan and Indonesia, was lifted. The move allowed thousands of expatriate workers to return after being stranded abroad for months.

Coronavirus cases have fallen in the kingdom in recent weeks.

The Health Ministry on Sunday reported 120 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections discovered in the country to 545,243.

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Updated: September 08, 2021, 9:03 AM