This will be applicable only to those foreigners who have left the Kingdom on exit and reentry visa after taking two doses of vaccine against coronavirus from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior has issued directives to allow direct entry of fully vaccinated expatriates from countries facing travel ban, an official source at the ministry announced on Tuesday.
The diplomatic missions of the concerned countries have confirmed to Saudi Gazette the receipt of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) directive in this regard. The diplomatic missions as well as the expatriate community leaders and businessmen hailed the much-awaited decision.
The new decision will be applicable only to those foreigners who have a valid residency permit (iqama) and left the Kingdom on exit and reentry visa after taking two doses of vaccine against coronavirus from Saudi Arabia.
Currently, the countries facing the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
The Ministry of Interior source said that the authorities had allowed earlier direct entry to Saudi citizens, as well as to foreign diplomats, health practitioners and their families from the countries facing travel ban.
All other segments required to spend 14-day quarantine in a third country before their entry into the Kingdom.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari confirmed receiving the directive from MOFA toward lifting the suspension of direct travel to Saudi Arabia from Lebanon for those Lebanese nationals who received two doses of coronavirus vaccine in the Kingdom.
He said that all the precautionary measures adopted by the Kingdom will be applicable to those returning to the Kingdom.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Indian Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed said that the embassy had received a circular from the Agency for Foreign Missions at MOFA in which it says that the competent authority had issued approval for lifting the suspension of direct entry to the Kingdom for residents from the travel suspended countries.
Only those residents who have received two doses of coronavirus vaccination before their departure from the Kingdom will be the beneficiaries of the decision, and that all precautionary measures will be applicable to them, he said, while quoting the circular.
Dr. Sayeed thanked the wise Saudi leadership for taking such a great step, saying that this big development will benefit thousands of expatriates who were stranded in the country since several months.
“This is a long-awaited decision. We will continue our consistent efforts for the direct entry of the most majority of expatriates who have already received two doses of vaccine from India or those who took first dose of vaccine from Saudi Arabia and the second dose from India,” he said.
The 2.6 million Indians make up nearly one-third of the entire expatriate population in the Kingdom.
The Embassy of Pakistan in Riyadh welcomed the Saudi government decision to allow direct travel from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. The embassy thanked the wise Saudi leadership for the great decision that will benefit thousands of Pakistani expatriates.
Indonesian Consul General Eko Hartono also welcomed the Saudi decision. “We are extremely pleased to receive the directive from MOFA with regard to lifting the suspension of travel. Though this decision will benefit only a small segment of Indonesians, we are waiting for the big news of direct entry for all the Indonesians who received two doses of vaccine from the home country,” he said.
Hartono said that Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation with 265 million population, was able to contain a big surge in coronavirus cases within a short span of time. “We have been successful in bringing down coronavirus cases from 50,000 to less than 10,000 within two months and this number would come down to the minimum within a couple of weeks,” he added.
Saudi Arabia had temporarily suspended all international flights from March 15, 2020, following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Though the suspension of international flight service lifted after one year on May 17, 2021, it was not applicable to 20 countries due to the coronavirus situation in those countries.
It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Interior announced the suspension of entry of expatriates from 20 countries into the Kingdom as part of measures to combat coronavirus, effective from Feb. 3. The move exempted Saudi citizens, as well as foreign diplomats, health practitioners, and their families.
The countries that faced the ban were Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, Turkey, South Africa, Lebanon, and Egypt, Germany, the United States, Japan, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Swiss Confederation and France.
It was also instructed that those coming from other countries if they had passed through any of these 20 countries during the 14 days preceding their application to enter the Kingdom.
Later, the travel ban on the United States, Japan, Ireland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Swiss Confederation, France, and Germany was lifted while a new countries Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Vietnam were added to the list of banned countries.
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