Countries around the world have started banning flights and travelers from the UK as London said the spread of a contagious new strain of coronavirus was “out of control”.
“To temporarily suspend all international flights for travelers (except in exceptional cases) for a week, which can be extended for a further week. Foreign flights that are currently in the territory of the Kingdom are allowed to depart,” the GACA said.
“The circular will take effect on Monday, December 21, 2020 at 12:00 am (midnight),” it added.
The notice also mentioned that the suspension excludes cargo flights and that the situation is “being reviewed in the light of developments related to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
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The Saudi Official Press Agency (SPA) said passengers who came to Saudi Arabia from Europe – or any other country where the new strain was discovered – starting December 8, will have to self-isolate and undergo tests for two weeks .
Last week, Saudi Arabia launched a three-phase Covid-19 vaccination program after the first shipments of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has registered more than 361,000 novel coronavirus cases to date, including more than 6,000 deaths – the highest among the Arab Gulf states. However, 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, banned flights in the UK following reports from the mutant tribe.
On December 19, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the newly identified virus strain could be up to 70 percent more transmissible.
According to British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the new variant was “out of control”.
In the week of December 9th, the new variant made up 62 percent in London, 59 percent in the east of England and 43 percent in the southeast.
(With contributions from agencies)