RIYADH: Residents of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province have welcomed an announcement by Bahrain that people arriving in the country from Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway will no longer face a mandatory PCR test for COVID-19.
However, all who wish to enter the country will need to provide evidence of a negative result from a PCR test carried out at an approved laboratory in Bahrain or the Kingdom within 72 hours of arrival. An original PCR certificate or a test result displayed through a mobile app will be accepted. Bahraini authorities also stressed the importance of all visitors adhering to precautionary health measures while in the country.
The decision will take effect on Jan. 17 and is designed to make travel from Saudi Arabia easier, according to a report published by Bahrain’s official news agency.
Residents of the Kingdom’s Eastern Province described the decision as a positive development.
“The announcement came as a huge relief, as I have many relatives in Bahrain and I am doing a lot of business from Bahrain,” said Sameh Samir from Egypt, who works in Dammam. “Now I can visit the country with ease to meet my relatives and friends, and for my business as well.”
Fakhruddin Ahmad, an Indian expatriate in Dammam, said: “The waiver will add billions of dollars to the Bahraini and Saudi economies. Following lifting of travel restrictions, thousands of visitors are expected to travel, leading to an anticipated rebound for the Kingdom’s tourism and hospitality sector.
“Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have long-standing tourism and trade ties, with trade between two countries growing by 43 percent up to the third quarter of 2020, so opening the border will help boost the economy.”
Businessman Hamad Al-Hammad, a member of the board of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce, said the move shows Bahrain’s trust in the efforts made by Saudi authorities to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The procedures have been described as the best around the world and emphasize precautions and the provision of high-quality healthcare services,” he said. “The testing adopts the highest technical standards as well.”
He noted that the Kingdom is one of the first countries to provide vaccines to nationals and residents alike, without exception, and added: “This fact reflects the humanitarian principles King Salman and the crown prince have adopted, and the great efforts they make to protect public health.”
He predicted that the decision will have a positive effect on the economy because it will allow businesses to operate more easily and bilateral trade will increase further. “During the pandemic, the volume (of bilateral trade) increased by 12 percent and exceeded $2 billion in the first three quarters of 2020, which constituted a significant increase in the volume of trade between Bahrain and the Kingdom on an annual basis,” Al-Hammad said.
Amir Khusroo, who lives in Alkhobar, said: “It is a good step. As an expatriate and a procurement (professional), it matters a lot to us. Our movements were confined due to all these regulations — now we can move and manage our shipments hassle-free.”
Serajuddin Khan, a sales consultant in Dammam, said: “I appreciate the decision to open the causeway to travel to both countries, with Bahrain waiving the mandatory PCR test.
It will enhance business, boost trade and will help give the economies of the two countries a further boost after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With visitor levels returning to prepandemic levels, the causeway will add more income to Bahrain’s economy.
“We should appreciate both the countries as they have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic very well to bring it under control. This happened because Saudi Arabia and Bahrain complied with the World Health Organization’s guidelines and took appropriate measures to control the spread of the virus.”
Salem Balhamar, chairman of the Salem Balhamar Holding Group, said the decision by Bahrain will boost tourism and business activity between the two countries.
“Many executive managers who live in Bahrain have been impacted by the pandemic,” he said. “Some of my projects were put on hold and some faltered as a result of it. I’ll travel to Bahrain immediately after the entry ports are open.”