RIYADH: Saudis have welcomed the Ministry of Interior’s announcement allowing vaccinated people and those who have recovered from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to travel abroad from May 17.
Following the announcement, the ministry warned Saudis to exercise caution and follow guidelines when traveling.
The ministry on Sunday said that citizens who are fully vaccinated or have received the first dose at least 14 days before departure will be allowed to travel. Based on health information provided on the Tawakkalna app, citizens who have been infected must have recovered at least six months prior to travel.
Children between the ages eight and 18 are exempt from the vaccination rule, but must present travel insurance from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) that will ensure COVID-19 medical care.
The lifting of the ban is a welcome move and will help the tourism industry and travel agencies across the Kingdom.
Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, Academic
“This is a refreshing, dynamic and optimistic decision. Finally, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, it all depends on whether people maintain the guidelines of the government, wear masks and do not mix too much in social gatherings,” Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, a writer and adviser on social issues, told Arab News.
She added that the decision proves that the government trusts its people, who at the same time have to fulfill all requirements, “because the danger of the virus will affect us from beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia.”
Europe, the US, India and many other countries have been badly hit by the coronavirus, she warned.
Al-Munajjed hailed government efforts in handling the pandemic through timely measures to contain the spread, including the vaccination of about 10 million people, which she hailed as an “excellent step.”
Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, an adviser and professor of law at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, told Arab News that lifting the travel ban will be a “great relief” for citizens, especially for those who are frequent travelers abroad.
However, the requirement for vaccination will lead to many people rushing to get their jabs, he added.
I believe one should not travel abroad unless on urgent business need or for family reasons, especially to countries suffering badly from the pandemic.
Talat Zaki Hafiz, Financial analyst
Al-Obaidy said that this will have a positive impact on the Saudi economy as well as regional and international economies, since Saudi tourists and travelers are “known for big spending,” which will help destination countries.
“The lifting of the ban is a welcome move and will help the tourism industry and travel agencies across the Kingdom, as well as the airlines operating to and from the Kingdom that suffered big losses due to the travel ban,” he said, adding: “It will also increase the profits of travel agencies and insurance companies offering travel insurance approved by SAMA.”
According to the professor, travel agencies are already experiencing a “huge increase” in demand for airline tickets and hotel reservations in destinations favored by Saudi travelers. Saudi agencies are also providing different offers on international travel and accommodation in many foreign destinations.
The decision proves that the government trusts its people, who at the same time have to fulfill all requirements.
Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, Writer
He added that the demand for foreign travel is expected to surge, especially with summer holidays approaching.
Financial analyst Talat Zaki Hafiz told Arab News: “Despite the fact that the government is lifting the travel ban, I believe one should not travel abroad unless on urgent business need or for family reasons, especially to countries suffering badly from the pandemic.”
Unnecessary travel to countries that are badly affected may expose travelers to infection and mean that they cannot receive adequate medical care, Hafiz added.
“Let us all not forget that the Saudi government provides free treatment to all people with COVID-19 irrespective of nationality, which may not be available in some other countries,” he said.
While Hafiz appreciates the government’s decision to lift the ban, he believes people should “use it wisely” as “safety comes first.”
Dr. Majed Al-Hedayan, a senior legal expert, told Arab News that many people are choosing to take the vaccine now that it has become a prerequisite for traveling.
“Tourism destinations are not the same as they were before the pandemic. Therefore, I advise everyone not to take risks just to travel, except for cases that require the performance of tasks or medical treatment,” he said.