Gulf countries impose travel restrictions amid surge in COVID-19 cases

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The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have made travel restrictions a significant part of their efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain have imposed various travel restrictions, which have severely toll a large number of foreign communities in five countries. 

The following descriptors impose travel restrictions in each country.

Saudi Arabia : Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s largest country with a population of about 34.8 million, is currently imposing a partial ban on international flights, which will be lifted next month. The kingdom plans to resume international flights on May 17 after a more than one-year suspension under epidemic restrictions.

The full resumption of international travel next month will not include the 20 countries with which the kingdom suspended flights last February.

Saudi citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are exempt from the ban.

Saudi national carrier  has said that the suspension of international flights will be lifted by 1 am on May 17, but it will not apply to countries with which the state committee working to deal with COVID-19 travel due to the exponential rise in cases.

The 20 countries on the ban list are Argentina, the UAE, France, Germany, the US, Indonesia, India, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the UK, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, the Swiss Confederation, Lebanon, and Egypt.

The ban also includes immigrants who traveled through one of 20 countries 14 days before applying to enter Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, Saudi civil aviation authorities instructed all airlines operating in the country to issue boarding passes to “passengers” who have been vaccinated or have not been affected by COVID-19 and Tawakkalna application must for boarding flights in Saudi Arabia.

Passengers do not have to show documents related to their health status because the app is used to prove that the passenger is free from COVID-19 virus. 

Meanwhile, everyone coming to Saudi Arabia is required to report a negative PCR result, a test that should take place within a maximum of 72 hours of departure to the kingdom. The new rules will take effect on Thursday, April 29.

Kuwait : Kuwait has banned foreigners from entering the country since last February as part of efforts to prevent COVID-19 infections in the country.

From February 21, Kuwait introduced a seven-day hotel for all travelers to Kuwait at its own expense. At the end of the institutional quarantine period, passengers will have to go through domestic temperatures for another seven days.

In another move, Kuwaiti civil aviation authorities announced on Friday that all commercial flights with India would be banned until further notice, due to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases. 

The ban applies directly to travelers coming from India or through a third country unless they have been out of the country for at least 14 days, ie India. There are about 1 million Indians in Kuwait, one of the country’s largest foreign communities. Exempted from the ban, which came into force on Saturday, April 24, Kuwaiti citizens are their first-degree relatives (Husband, wife and children) and accompanying domestic workers.

Oman : Beginning April 8, citizens and foreign residents are allowed to enter Oman until further notice. The ban was part of a series of measures taken by Oman to curb night-time curfews during the current Muslim holy month of Ramzan to limit the incidence of the dangerous COVID-19 infection.

Oman has banned the entry of passengers flying from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh from Saturday, April 24 until further notice. This restriction applies to travelers who travel to all three countries within 14 days of applying for entry into Oman. Oman has at least 800,000 Indians, 680,000 Bangladeshis and 250,000 Pakistanis, a country of about 5 million people.

Exempted from the ban are Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families.

These groups must undergo COVID-19 procedures upon arrival. 

These measures include going to the institutional quarantine for at least seven days for non-Omani visitors who have to book in advance hotels for quarantine. Omani citizens will have to sign a pledge to observe home quarantine. Passengers are also required to show a negative PCR within a maximum of 72 hours of arrival in Oman. They will have to undergo another COVID virus test after the seven-day quarantine.

Qatar : The country has adopted a “green list” policy that changes at any time and is reviewed every two weeks. The list is based on public health indicators in Qatar and around the world.

Coming from the “green list” countries are bound to test for the COVID-19 virus and will sign a one-week official position to observe domestic quarantine, during which their status on the health app ‘Ehteraz’ (Awareness) will turn yellow. 

 On the sixth day of the crisis, they will have to go to a recognized healthcare center for a new test. If the result is positive, the person will be transferred to Institutional Quarantine. But if the person tests negative, his quarantine is completed by the end of the seventh day of isolation, and the avoidance status will turn green.

If health centers have been approved by the Qatari Ministry of Health in the countries of departure, they are exempt from showing the COVID-19 virus-free certificate at the point of arrival in Qatar, provided that the certificate is issued 48 hours before the trip. 

Passengers who are fully vaccinated in Qatar are exempt from quarantine if the requirements are exceeded. These include the requirement that 14 days have elapsed since taking the second dose before leaving for Qatar. Receiving a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure from Qatar, with no further risk.

Bahrain : Since February 22, all citizens and citizens and foreigners visiting Bahrain must take the PCR test at their own expense at the cost of BD36. The first test is taken on arrival and the second five days later. The third and final test will be on the 10th day of arrival in Bahrain.

All visitors need to download the smartphone app “Beware Bahrain”. All newcomers need to be isolated until the PCR test results are released. Children under the age of six do not need a PCR test.

Earlier this week, Bahrain announced health measures for passengers arriving in the kingdom from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

Starting from Tuesday, April 27, all travellers arriving in Bahrain from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will have to show a certificate proving results of coronavirus-detecting PCR testing with the QR code, done 48 hours before departure from the three countries.