Saudi Arabia suspending domestic flights, mass land transport in fight against COVID-19

Travel on public transport within Saudi Arabia has been suspended. (AFP)
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Updated 20 March 2020

Saudi Arabia suspending domestic flights, mass land transport in fight against COVID-19

  • Taxi services warned against evading the ban

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is suspending domestic flights, trains, buses and taxis for 14 days in a heightened effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Friday.

Quoting a directive from the Ministry of Interior, SPA said the new measure will take effect at 6 a.m. on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health has confirmed 274 COVID-19 cases so far and no deaths, while globally the pandemic has killed nearly 10,000 and infected over 240,000.

Only flights related to humanitarian and necessary cases, medical evacuation aircraft and private aviation would be allowed, provided that they are covered by the necessary permits issued by the Civil Aviation Authority, SPA said.

Also exempted from the travel ban are buses belonging to government agencies or public or private health facilities, and commercial establishments transporting their employees, or those that are used for health, humanitarian or security purposes.

Bus and taxi operators are obliged to obey the suspension order so as not to suffer penalties, the SPA quoted the Interior Ministry.

Affected in the train services suspension are the Riyadh-Dammam line through Abqaiq and Hofuf, the Riyadh-Jawf line through the Majmaa, Al-Qassim and Hail, and the Haramain Express. 

Allowed to continue operating are commercial transport trains, including the freight train between King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam and the Dry Port in Riyadh, and the mining train of the Saudi Railways Company "Saar".

Transport ferries between Jazan and Farasan Island may also continue operating, but the number of passengers would be reduced to 100 people per trip, "taking into account the employees and residents of Farsan Island, and not allowing travel through them for tourist purposes."

Cargo ships will be allowed to continue with their usual program, provided that the crews take all precautions to limit the transmission of infection.

Transportation related to vital sectors such as health, services and basic commodities such as food, energy, water and communications, etc., air freight and necessary security transfers will not be affected by the temporary ban, said the SPA report.

Saudi Arabia suspends prison sentences in debt cases

Updated 08 April 2020

Saudi Arabia suspends prison sentences in debt cases

  • As part of efforts to slow spread of coronavirus, King Salman orders temporary release of debtors already in jail
  • Orders granting visitation rights to separated parents also put on hold for duration of COVID-19 crisis

RIYADH: As part of the efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Saudi Arabia has called a temporary halt to prison sentences for individuals convicted in private cases involving unpaid debts.

King Salman on Tuesday ordered that the implementation of final judgments and orders in such cases be suspended. He also ordered the immediate, temporary release of prisoners already serving time for debt-related convictions, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In addition, the king suspended all orders and judgments granting an estranged parent child-visitation rights.

The orders will remain in force until the authorities announce that the pandemic no longer poses a threat to public health.

Walid Al-Samaani, the justice minister and president of the Supreme Judicial Council, thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the decisions. He said that they are part of the efforts being made by the government to ensure the safety of everyone in the Kingdom, and reflect the fact that public health is the main priority at this time.

The orders were implemented immediately. Legal and prison authorities have been notified and told to take all necessary action. All those affected by the suspension of parental visitation rights were notified by text message.