Covid-19 updates for Saudi Arabia 2021.

Residents of Saudi Arabia will be required to show vaccination proof starting in August says the interior ministry. 

With at least 11.5 million people being vaccinated (with one dose) by either Pfizer or AstraZeneca, Saudi Arabian interior ministry has announced that beginning from 1st August vaccination will be mandatory for those people who wish to attend public gatherings.

These gatherings include sporting events, entertainment concerts, and cultural activities. Not just this the vaccination proof is also needed to use public transportation, visit government offices, attend schools, etc.  

Saudi Arabia is following in the footsteps of its Gulf neighbors which includes Bahrain and Dubai. It’s been done in the hopes to tie the economic revival with its vaccination drive.    

However, the ministry didn’t exactly explain how they are planning to execute these restrictions across the kingdom that houses more than 30 million people. This means that the residents of KSA would have to show their vaccination status on the government-approved health app which is Tawakkalna.

This week the government decided to ease the virus-induced travel ban which was in place for a year thus allowing vaccinated people to leave the kingdom. 

Unfortunately despite the inoculation drive, the daily covid cases shot up with 1.200 cases on 19th May for the first time in several months. 

Close to 20,000 Saudis traveled abroad as the Kingdom lifts the travel ban after a year. 

Since Saudi opened its borders on May the 17th people have been eager to leave the country for various other destinations.

So far close to 18,000 people have left the kingdom in the first 36 hours after the ban was lifted, UAE was the prime destination for the people followed by Egypt, Qatar, the US, and the UK. 

According to Saudi officials, 4,735 residents have taken the air route in the first 24 hours on the other hand 5,717 left via land routes.

While traveling to Bahrain around 3,362 Saudi nationals used the King Fahad Causeway which links Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. 

On the other hand, around 689 Saudis left for UAE by passing through Al-Batha border crossing, 673 for Jordan via Al Haditha checkpoint, 324 departed through Salwa checkpoint for Qatar, and 270 for Kuwait via Khafji border crossing. 

This travel ease applies to the immunized Saudis which includes those residents who have reviewed two shots of covid vaccine.

Furthermore, people who have been administered the jab (one dose) 14 days before traveling and those folks who are recovering from covid less than 6 months after getting infected by COVID-19. (As shown in the Tawakkalna app). 

Along with these people, minors (Saudis aged less than 18 years old) can also travel outside the kingdom provided they have an insurance document which is approved by the Saudi central bank covering the risks of COVID-19.

However Saudi government has warned the nationals to travel to 13 countries citing security reasons and the prevailing instability in those respective countries along with the high number of COVID cases. Those countries include Armenia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Congo, Iran, India, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Turkey, Yemen, and Venezuela. 

For Non-Saudi visitors, if you are vaccinated then you won’t be quarantined upon arrival to KSA. 

Owing to its reversal of travel restrictions KSA updated its stance on the arrival of foreign visitors as well. 

In a statement put forth by the GACA (General Authority of Civil Aviation) of Saudi Arabia, it was announced that under these new measures the people who have been vaccinated by the Ministry of Health approved vaccines will be allowed to enter the kingdom without getting quarantined. 

Since there was a mandatory quarantine for foreign visitors so far, this change has been welcoming. 

As long as they provide the official documentation attesting their vaccination history both before and upon their arrival the visitors are free to visit Saudi Arabia. 

However, “GACA has stressed on the air carriers for their need to carry all the exempted travelers, immunized and the unvaccinated groups’ ministry approved health certificates (Coronavirus examination certificate PCR) not exceeding the 72 hours window of the flight time for those people who are 8 years or older, meanwhile non-citizen immunized persons are allowed to enter as well” according to the authority. 

This new protocol came into effect on May 20th, 2021.

Furthermore, the GACA has advised the air carriers to stay in contact with the shelters and accommodation facilities that have been approved by the Ministry of Tourism.

These facilities will provide shelter to those people who are non-Saudi citizens and those groups which qualify for institutional quarantine for seven days.

During this course of stay, a swab has to be done on the sixth day and the result should be negative. According to the figures presented by the Johns Hopkins University, KSA has recorded more than 433,094 Covid cases with more than 7K deaths. 

Pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia can attend Hai this year. 

Last year only a handful of Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia were allowed to perform the yearly pilgrimage, however, this year that situation is going to change. According to a Saudi newspaper Al Watan, Muslims who wish to attend this year’s Hajj can visit Saudi Arabia. 

However, this relaxation will include some strict precautionary steps and safety measures as well to safeguard people from contracting Covid 19. Earlier in May, the Kingdom expressed its intention to organize Hajj for the year 2021 which is due in July.

This is to be achieved while handling the health, security, and organizational requirements to protect the health of pilgrims amid the global pandemic of Covid 19. Information regarding the regulations and executive plans will be announced by the Ministry of the Hajj and Umrah in the coming days. 

Having said that every possible option is being considered for this year’s Hajj, said the ministry’s undersecretary Hesham Saeed, and that the kingdom is also entertaining the idea of allowing only a “symbolic” number 9f pilgrims from across the planet. 

Hajj is one of the integral parts of Islam’s five pillars and last year’s Hajj was performed by only a few Saudis to restrict the spread of coronavirus.