Countries around the world have begun banning flights and travellers from Britain as London said the spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain was “out of control”.
“Suspending all international flights for travelers (except in exceptional cases) temporarily for one week, which can be extended for another week. Foreign flights currently in the territory of the Kingdom are allowed to leave,” GACA notification said.
“The circular will take effect from 00.00 (Midnight) on Monday December 21, 2020,” it added.
The notification further mentioned that suspension excludes Cargo flights and the situation will be “reviewed in light of the developments related to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
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The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said passengers who arrived in Saudi from Europe — or any country where the new strain was detected — starting December 8 will be required to self isolate for two weeks, and undergo testing.
Last week, Saudi Arabia kicked off a three-phase Covid-19 vaccination programme, after the first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in the kingdom.
Saudi has so far recorded more than 361,000 novel coronavirus cases, including more than 6,000 deaths – the highest among the Gulf Arab states. But the Kingdom has also reported a high recovery rate.
The decision to ban international flights came after several European nations, including Italy, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, have banned UK flights after report of the mutant strain.
On December 19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced that the newly identified strain of the virus may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.
According to British health secretary Matt Hancock, the new variant was “out of control”.
By the week ending December 9, the new variant accounted for 62 per cent in London, 59 per cent in eastern England, and 43 per cent in the South East.
(With inputs from agencies)