Saudi Arabia has said it is suspending flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ethiopia and Vietnam to protect against a coronavirus variant.
The move announced on Saturday came seven weeks after the kingdom permitted fully immunised citizens to travel abroad following a ban on foreign trips that lasted more than a year.
Flights to the three countries will be halted from Sunday at 11pm, the state news agency SPA quoted an interior ministry official as saying. Saudi citizens and residents returning from these countries will be required to quarantine for 14 days, it added.
Citizens would be banned “from travelling directly or indirectly, without obtaining prior permission from … authorities”.
The decision was taken due to “the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus pandemic and the spread of a new mutated strain of the virus”, it added, without explicitly mentioning the increasingly globally emergent Delta variant.
First detected in India and now present in at least 85 countries, Delta is the most contagious of any coronavirus variant yet identified.
The UAE – a popular leisure destination for many Saudi Arabians, especially Dubai – announced last week it had recorded cases of the Delta variant and it had suspended flights to and from India.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has put major limits on the annual Hajj pilgrimage. It has officially recorded more than 490,000 cases of coronavirus, including nearly 7,850 deaths.