Severity: Critical Alert
Exit/Entry: Saudi authorities clarify some restrictions on international travel beginning 0600 Sept. 15; other COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.
Alert Begins 17 Sep 2020 01:21 PM UTC
Alert Expires 31 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC
- Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
- Location(s): Nationwide (map)
- Time Frame: Indefinite
- Impact: Transport and business disruptions, increased security
Authorities in Saudi Arabia partially lifted restrictions on international travel Sept. 15. Under the measures, citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and non-Saudi nationals who hold valid exit and re-entry visas, work visas, residency permits, or visit visas are permitted to enter and exit the Kingdom. Authorities will also permit government and military employees, diplomatic workers, businesspeople, people studying abroad, and those who require medical treatment abroad to travel.
All travelers must provide proof of having tested negative for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) 48 hours before their arrival; non-Saudi nationals will not be permitted entry if they fail to provide their results. Upon arrival, travelers will be tested for COVID-19 and must present a completed health disclaimer form to authorities. Arrivals will be subject to a three-day quarantine and should undergo another COVID-19 test 48 hours after entering the Kingdom. If travelers do not take a second COVID-19 test, the quarantine period will continue for 7 days. Arrivals must download and register on the "Tataman" and "Tawakkalna" applications. Authorities are expected to lift all restrictions on air, land, and sea travel for Saudi citizens Jan. 1, 2021.
Previously enacted measures in Saudi Arabia include:
- Authorities extended the validity of all expired visas for expatriates currently residing outside the kingdom for three months from July 27.
- Domestic flights resumed May 31. All domestic flights will have to comply with the safety guidelines established by the relevant authorities before being authorized to operate.
- Sea borders remain closed to regular passenger travel until further notice.
- Saudi Arabia's land port with Yemen remains closed until further notice. The closures do not apply to commercial transport.
- Saudi nationals can return via land border crossings with Kuwait, Bahrain, and the UAE without prior permission. All returnees must comply with existing or future preventive measures upon their return to the kingdom.
- Saudi nationals, their non-Saudi relatives, and domestic employees are able to return via the Khafji, Al-Raqi, Al-Batha, and the King Fahd Causeway land ports. Those returning must provide proof of their relationship and obtain prior approval before their arrival.
- Travel between provinces has resumed.
- Gatherings of more than 50 people remain banned until further notice.
- Wearing facemasks is mandatory in public.
- Educational institutions resumed Aug. 30 with distance learning.
- All economic and commercial activities resumed operations, albeit with public health precautions, such as facemasks and social distancing. Work in the public sector has also been allowed to resume. Mosques across the country have been allowed to resume congregational and Friday prayers.
Authorities could reintroduce restrictive measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic if there is a significant increase in cases; such measures could be ambiguous and occasionally contradictory.
Background and Analysis
The Saudi government's preventive measures are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.