‘Safety comes first’ for Saudi tourists as international flights return

‘Safety comes first’ for Saudi tourists as international flights return
The Saudi authorities 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. (AFP/Reuters)
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Updated 04 May 2021

‘Safety comes first’ for Saudi tourists as international flights return

‘Safety comes first’ for Saudi tourists as international flights return
  • Tour operators gearing up for brisk business as citizens pack their bags

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.


Crown prince: Saudi Arabia has future projects, grants and loans worth more than SR3 billion for African countries

Crown prince: Saudi Arabia has future projects, grants and loans worth more than SR3 billion for African countries
Updated 8 min 36 sec ago

Crown prince: Saudi Arabia has future projects, grants and loans worth more than SR3 billion for African countries

Crown prince: Saudi Arabia has future projects, grants and loans worth more than SR3 billion for African countries

 

Saudi Arabia has future projects, grants and loans worth more than SR3 billion for African developing countries that will be executed by the Saudi Development Fund, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told and an Africa financing conference on Tuesday.

More to follow ...


Saudi, GCC anger at ‘insult’ by Lebanon minister

Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. (Reuters/File Photo)
Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 39 min 15 sec ago

Saudi, GCC anger at ‘insult’ by Lebanon minister

Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • In a statement, Saudi foreign ministry said comments were inconsistent with the most basic diplomatic norms

BEIRUT:  Saudi Arabia summoned the Lebanese ambassador in Riyadh on Tuesday to protest over “insulting” remarks by his country’s foreign minister.

Charbel Wehbe, a member of Lebanon’s caretaker administration, suggested during a TV debate that the Gulf states were behind the rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. “Those countries of love, friendship and fraternity, they brought us Daesh,” he said.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry strongly condemned Wehbe’s “insulting” remarks, which were “inconsistent with the simplest diplomatic norms.” The ministry said it had “summoned the Lebanese ambassador to express the Kingdom’s rejection and denunciation” of his comments, and he was handed an official letter of protest.

The UAE also summoned the Lebanese ambassador in Abu Dhabi, who was told the minister’s comments were “derogatory and racist,” and there were protests from authorities in Kuwait and Bahrain. Nayef Al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, demanded a formal apology from Wehbe to Gulf states for his “unacceptable” remarks.

Wehbe apologized later on Tuesday, and said he did not mean to offend “brotherly Arab countries.” However, he was described on social media in Lebanon as as “an idiot and a fool,” and the country’s leading politicians moved swiftly to disown him.

President Michel Aoun said the comments did not reflect the position of the state, which had “brotherly” ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he had sought an explanation from Wehbe, and his country was keen to maintain the “best relations” with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister-designate, said Wehbe’s remarks were “not in accordance with diplomatic norms.”

 


Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 

RIYADH: A Saudi family infected with coronavirus has returned to the Kingdom from India, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Monday.
The family was airlifted by the Air Medical Evacuation Department of Health Services at the Saudi Ministry of Defense in an implementation of directives issued by Saudi King Salman.  
The plane arrived at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, with all precautionary measures taken by crew members to combat the spread COVID-19.
Previously, Saudi Arabia transported more than 74 cases infected with COVID-19 through its medical air evacuation planes without infecting the medical and aircrews with the virus.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
  • King Hamad congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway
  • King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman discussed in a phone call with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa issues of common interest and relations between both Kingdoms, state news agency SPA reported.
King Hamad further congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway, following the coronavirus lockdown, Bahrain’s news agency BNA reported.
Only those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or those who have recovered from the disease are allowed to leave the Kingdom.
Meanwhile King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms.


Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
  • About 385 flights to international destinations took off from nine airports in the Kingdom on Monday

JEDDAH: The terminals at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah were once again bustling with passengers on Monday, as international travel resumed more than a year after it was suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Arrivals and departures resumed at the Kingdom’s air, land and sea ports at 1 a.m., with Saudi citizens who have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the virus within the past six months, free to travel.
As passengers flocked to the airport from early Monday morning, the flow of traffic was well-organized and smooth. Entry to terminals was restricted to people with valid tickets and helpers accompanying disabled travelers.
As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy, approved by the Saudi Central Bank, that will cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 in other countries.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation also issued updated travel guidelines, including requirements for the use of the country’s Tawakkalna COVID-19 tracking app. The conditions apply to all travelers, regardless of whether their trip is for leisure, study, work or to receive medical treatment.
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. In addition, about 300 vehicles crossed land borders into Qatar during the morning.
The Kingdom’s national carrier, Saudia, resumed flights to 43 destinations in 30 countries. It said it will operate 178 scheduled flights each week from Jeddah and 153 from Riyadh.

As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, the airline’s director general, said that Saudia has implemented more than 50 precautionary measures throughout all stages of the flight process, and has been ranked among the Top-10 safest airlines in the world by the Airline Passenger Experience Association. He added that since the pandemic began, the airline has operated more than 100,000 flights, transporting more than 10 million passengers.
The destination of the first international flight to depart from Riyadh on Monday was Hyderabad in India, while the first flight of the day from Jeddah was bound for Dhaka in Bangladesh. The first international flight to land in Riyadh on Monday was from Cairo, and the first arrival in Jeddah was from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

INNUMBERS

More than 18,000 people traveled from King Abdulaziz Airport on Monday.

More than 47 flights operated from the Kingdom within 6.

Despite the resumption of international flights, the Saudi Interior Ministry said that a ban remains on direct or indirect travel to 13 countries without prior permission to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The countries this applies to are: Libya, Yemen, Armenia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Venezuela.
In addition, the ministry said travelers heading to Bahrain must have received two doses of a vaccine, and children under the age of 18 are not eligible to travel there. Diplomats and individuals accompanying them, air navigation and ship crews, workers in companies that are part of the health supply chain, and truck drivers are exempt from these rules. People who arrived at the King Fahd Causeway, on the border with Bahrain, but did not meet the requirements were turned away on Monday.
Travelers returning to the Kingdom after visiting a foreign country will be required to quarantine at home for seven days. However foreign visitors, including members of diplomatic missions arriving by air from most countries, will no longer need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Those who are not vaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR test, issued by an approved laboratory within 72 hours of flying to the Kingdom, otherwise they will not be allowed to board the plane.
With the exception of Saudi citizens, resident expats and GCC citizens, all people arriving in Saudi Arabia must have medical insurance that will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment in outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals.
On Jan. 29, Saudi authorities postponed the reopening of air, sea and land ports and extended the travel ban from Mar. 31 to May 17. Further information about international travel, including the rules and requirements, is available at www.saudia.com.