Saudi Arabia on Sunday halted international flights and suspended entry through its land borders and seaports for at least a week, after a new fast-spreading strain of coronavirus appeared in Britain.
The kingdom is “temporarily suspending all international flights for a period of one week,” the official Saudi Press Agency said. “Entry through land and seaports will also be suspended for a week.”
The interior ministry said the one-week border closures may be extended “until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear”.
SPA said, “International aircraft currently in the kingdom will be allowed to leave”, and the travel suspension will not affect the country’s cargo flights and supply chains.
The development comes after several European countries banned travel from Britain on Sunday as the UK government warned that a highly infectious new strain of the virus is “out of control” in the country.
Saudi Arabia has ordered anyone who has returned from or passed through a European country over the past three months to get tested for Covid-19 immediately.
On Sunday, neighbouring Kuwait also announced a ban on passenger flights from Britain over fears concerning the new strain of the virus.
Last week, Saudi Arabia began a three-phase Covid-19 vaccination programme, after the first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in the kingdom.
The vast desert country has so far recorded more than 360,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 6,000 deaths – the highest among the Gulf Arab states.