Saudi halts int’l flights over fears of new Covid-19 strain

Saudi Arabia has halted all international flights for a week amid fears over a highly infectious new mutant strain of the novel coronavirus which has been discovered in Britain, an Interior Ministry source has confirmed.

The ban, which came into effect on Sunday, also applies to entry of passengers to the Kingdom through land and sea ports, Gulf News quoted the source as saying.

“These procedures will be reviewed in light of the developments related to the pandemic, and what is received from the Ministry of Health,” the source said in a statement.

Foreign flights that are currently in the Saudi territory will be exempt and will be allowed to leave, the source said.

The source further said that the Saudi ban excludes movement of goods, commodities and supply chains from countries where the mutated virus has not appeared.

Saudi Arabia’s decision came after several European nations, including Italy, Belgium, France and the Netehrlands, have banned flights to and fro from the UK after report of the mutant strain, which has quickly spread cross London and the southeast of England.

On December 19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced that the newly identified strain of the virus may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

According to British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the new variant was “out of control”.

By the week ending December 9, the new variant accounted for 62 per cent in London, 59 per cent in eastern England, and 43 per cent in the South East.