Saudi Arabia suspends international flights over new COVID strain

The ban on flights if for one week and could be extended for seven more days. Also, European travellers who entered Saudi Arabia after December 8 are advised to be in two-week isolation

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Saudi Arabia on Sunday (December 20) suspended all international flights for one week over concerns about the new fast-spreading strain of the coronavirus that appeared in the United Kingdom (UK).

According to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the suspension of flights could be extended for another one week. However, those international aircraft currently in the country will be allowed to leave, the report said.

SPA said that Saudi Arabia is “suspending all international flights for travellers, except in exceptional cases, temporarily for one week, which can be extended for another week, with the exception of foreign flights that are currently inside the Kingdom, they are allowed to leave.”

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Also, entry into the kingdom is banned through land and sea ports for one week.

The government also advised two-week isolation for those travellers who have entered the country from Europe or any other country after December 8 when the new strain of virus appeared. They need to take a COVID-19 test every five days during isolation.

On Saturday, Britain said the virus was spreading rapidly in London, driven by a new variant.

“I also received an explanation for why the virus is spreading more rapidly in these areas. It appears this spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus, which we first learned about earlier this week. Our advisory group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats – NERVTAG – has spent the last few days analysing the new variant,” Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

“There is no evidence the variant causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily,” he added.

Further, he stated that it was time to act on the early data that is available on the new variant. “NERVTAG’s early analysis suggests the new variant could increase R by 0.4 or greater. Although there is considerable uncertainty, it may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant.”

“This is early data. It is subject to review. It is the best we have at the moment, and we have to act on information as we have it because this is now spreading very fast,” Johnson said.

Meanwhile, Canada has also suspended flights from Britain for 72 hours. “…the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours, effective midnight tonight,” the Canadian government said on Sunday.