With the lifting of the travel ban for citizens without prior permission from the authorities, an atmosphere of excitement prevailed, but it did not reach the level of crowds, on Monday morning, at the international airport in Riyadh, while Saudis’ cars were jammed in front of the King Fahd Bridge to cross into neighboring Bahrain.
For the first time since March 2020, Saudi citizens who received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to travel no less than two weeks before the date of travel, and those who contracted the virus and recovered during the last six months and those under the age of eighteen.
Over the past 14 months, Saudi citizens have been mostly prevented from traveling abroad, due to concerns that international travel may lead to an outbreak of the virus within the country.
The ban, in effect since March 2020, has affected Saudi students who were studying abroad, and other groups.
Bandar Al-Nawash, a traveler who was waiting in the departure hall at King Khalid International Airport, said: “It is a wonderful feeling. Praise be to God. We were happy, especially after the difficult period that we and the whole world suffered from.”
Another citizen, Faisal Al-Tamimi, said that he expected large numbers of travelers at the airport, but he found only a few, on Monday morning, after the new decision took effect at one in the morning local time.
Al-Tamimi added that he believes that people are concerned about Corona strains such as the Indian strain and the new developments in some countries.
Another passenger at the airport, Jaber Al-Mahdi, said: “Praise be to God … Today we can travel, whether for tourism or work. God willing, this pandemic will end and everyone will be able to travel.”
And Saudi Arabia, which has a population of about 30 million, announced the monitoring of 825 new infections with the Corona virus, on Sunday, bringing the total number of infected people to 433094 infected, of whom 7162 died.
On Sunday, the authorities indicated that 11.5 million doses of the vaccine have been used so far.
Actions in the time of Corona
Saudi travelers are required to show their health conditions to airport officials through the government health app (Tawakolna).
Passengers returning from abroad will also be required to undergo home quarantine and testing to ensure they are free of the virus.
The Kingdom had imposed some of the most comprehensive measures to prevent the spread of the virus early in the epidemic, including closing mosques and companies for several weeks at a time, greatly reducing Hajj rituals and closing its borders to travelers.
There are still 13 countries that the authorities prohibit Saudis from traveling to without prior permission, whether through direct or indirect flights, due to the risks of Covid-19. It includes a number of high-risk countries, including Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey and India.
However, the Saudis were able to cross into neighboring Bahrain via the King Fahd Causeway, as of Monday, with the restrictions eased.
Bahrain, where the sale of alcohol is permitted under specific rules, is a popular destination for Saudi residents and others seeking a short vacation.
Videos showed hundreds of cars gathered at the King Fahd Bridge, which connects Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The bridge, which extends over 25 km, was crowded with cars and people even hours before the kingdom reopened its land, sea and air borders.
“It is a nice feeling after this long absence from Bahrain,” Saudi Mohammed told AFP.
The opening of the borders is expected to boost tourism in Bahrain, which relies heavily on visits from its conservative neighbor, which has the largest economy in the Arab world.
For decades, the bridge served as a major lifeline for the small Gulf kingdom, transporting visitors from the big neighbor to Bahrain’s nightclubs, shopping malls and hotels.
But after the virus spread, the movement greatly decreased until it stopped completely over a year ago.