JEDDAH: On Saturday, the Interior Ministry announced that as of Sunday international flights would be suspended for two weeks to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
Many Saudis were traveling abroad before the announcement, but were urged to catch the next flight home.
Saudi corporate communications manager Hatoon Abdullatif was in Athens from March 1 and was due to return on the 16th.
“With all the news updates, it didn’t feel right to stay any longer so I have decided to book for March 13 instead,” she told Arab News.
“Thankfully I did, as they banned all international flights in Saudi Arabia on March 14.”
Abdullatif had been following official announcements and receiving messages from the government on her phone for updates on the situation in the Kingdom.
“This was extremely helpful. I thought since a lot of countries were going on lockdowns, it was only a matter of time that they would announce a lockdown in Saudi Arabia.
“I was afraid that Greece would be added to that official banned list and I’d be stuck there by myself,” she said.
She received a precautionary notification from the Greek government.
“It said something like ‘all people are required to stay home for safety precautions.’ Getting that alert on my phone was scary and I knew then that I had to go home.
“As a solo traveler this was a scary experience.”
Saudi retired pilot Khalid Nadher was in Munich, Germany on March 2 and was supposed to return at the end of the month, but he also flew back on March 13.
He said that people in Germany were calm about the situation.
“People were normal, no one was panicking, and trains were still crowded. The reaction here is stronger than in Germany. I think people here follow the news more than in Germany. Nothing was affecting business or transportation, everything was normal,” he told Arab News.
Pointing to the temporary suspension of Umrah, Nadher applauded the Kingdom for its actions to slow the spread of the virus.
“I think it’s a good decision to prevent any contact with other people who are contaminated with the disease.”
Nadher said the suspension of flights will affect airlines.
“There will be worldwide losses for all airlines, not only Saudi Airlines. Many carriers are suffering. Nobody is going to compete with anyone else, no one will take advantage of the situation.”