RIYADH: A group of 196 Saudis left stranded in Bahrain due to travel restrictions introduced over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic have been transported home via the King Fahd Causeway connecting the two countries.
The returnees formed the first of four parties of a total 790 Saudi nationals due to be bussed back to the Kingdom after becoming trapped in Bahrain by the spread of the virus, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
In a tweet, the Saudi Ambassador to Bahrain Prince Sultan bin Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, said: “In compliance with the directives of King Salman and the crown prince (Mohammed bin Salman) to facilitate the procedures for the return of stranded citizens, the embassy, in cooperation with the concerned authorities of the two brotherly kingdoms, begins today — for a period of four days — sending buses scheduled to transport citizens to the Eastern Province via King Fahd Causeway.”
The returning Saudis received medical checks before entering the Kingdom and were placed in specified hotels for quarantine upon arrival.
Similar COVID-19 tests and procedures will apply for other groups of Saudi citizens being repatriated from countries around the globe, including those returning on flights.
Electronic Saudi news outlet, Ajel, reported that 29,000 Saudis had registered on the e-government Yusr platform within 24 hours of its launch.
In a video posted on the embassy’s official Twitter account on March 27, Saudi envoy to the UK, Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan, said: “We all need to stand together as a barrier to halt the virus from spreading. For that, the return of 20,000 or 30,000 citizens all at once is not logical and not safe for you and your country.”
The Saudi Ministry of Education was also coordinating with its 31 cultural bureaus on the health and safety of 124,228 Saudis currently abroad as part of government scholarship programs — 79,113 of them students with 45,115 accompanying family members.
Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, who is also chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), said airport terminals were being readied for the arrival of Saudi nationals from abroad.
“GACA has harnessed all its efforts and capabilities to receive the citizens wishing to return to the Kingdom. It has prepared terminals in the Kingdom’s international airports — King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam,” he added.
An announcement is expected soon on which country the next group of Saudi nationals will be returned from.
Saudis given priority to return on the first flights back include those coming from countries worst affected by the virus, elderly citizens, those with expired passports or where flights have been cancelled, pregnant women, people with special needs, and humanitarian cases.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Arab News that it was not yet clear how many Saudis had registered to come home but those wishing to could apply at http://www.mofa.gov.sa/es.