RIYADH: Saudi authorities on Thursday announced new travel restrictions for both citizens and visitors in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom.
A source from the Ministry of Interior said that with effect from Feb. 9, Saudi citizens wishing to travel outside the country will only be allowed to do so if they have received a third, or booster, dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
People can receive a booster jab if it has been at least three months since they were given their second jab, the ministry said. Children under the age of 16 and others excluded under the terms covered by the Tawakkalna app are exempt from the new rule.
Also, anyone seeking entry to the Kingdom, including citizens and regardless of immunization status, must now provide a negative PCR or antigen test result issued within 48 hours of their date of departure to be allowed back in. This does not apply to children under the age of eight.
Saudi citizens who test positive prior to arrival but have received the approved number of COVID jabs will be required to remain outside the country for seven days after providing the positive sample, the ministry said. Those who have not received all of their doses will be made to wait 10 days before being allowed back in.
The source said it was vital that everyone adhered to the approved health measures to help contain the coronavirus, and stressed the need to expedite the vaccination process.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior reiterated that people who refuse to wear a face mask in public could face a fine of up to SR100,000 ($26,600). The penalty is SR1,000 for a first offense but doubles for each subsequent infringement up to the maximum.
Also, citizens who breach COVID-19 quarantine rules could face up to two years in prison and a fine of SR200,000, the ministry said. Expatriates who violate the rules will be deported and banned from ever returning to the Kingdom.
Nearly 58 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the start of the Kingdom’s immunization campaign, and almost 24 million people are now fully vaccinated.
The ministry, which has 587 vaccine centers across the country, urged people who have not yet received their jabs to register to receive them through its Sehhaty app.
Testing hubs and treatment centers have helped millions of people since the start of the pandemic.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.