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Gulf countries border closure over new Covid strain: All you need to know

The move comes in light of a rapidly mutating strain of Covid-19 across Europe
A new mutating strain of Covid-19 has been spreading rapidly across Europe, resulting in over 40 countries cutting travel ties with the UK, where it was first detected. The new strain has since been detected in South Africa and Australia too.

Fears over the new Covid strain, which the UK reported as "out of control" and 70 per cent more transmissible than other strains, caused several countries to suspend flights to the nation on Sunday. As a precautionary measure, three Gulf countries this week announced similar measures, in addition to border closures. Here's all you need to know.


Saudi Arabia

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia suspended all international commercial flights for a renewable week — except for foreign flights already in the kingdom, which, state news agency SPA reported, would be allowed to leave.

Entry to the kingdom through land and sea ports were also suspended for a renewable week. However, SPA added that some flights would be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Anyone who travelled to the Kingdom from European countries or high-risk countries after December 8 is being required to quarantine for two weeks from the date of their arrival.

They must also undergo a Covid-19 test during their self-isolation period and repeat the test every five days.

Anyone who has returned from or transited through a European or high-risk country within the last three months must also undergo the test.

The movement of goods, commodities and supply chains from countries where the mutated virus has not appeared will continue as usual.

Oman

On Monday, the Sultanate of Oman announced the closure of land, air and sea borders starting December 22. The border closure will be in effect for one week, it said.

Kuwait

Kuwait this week became the third Gulf country to announce the closure of its borders, after Saudi Arabia and Oman. On Monday, the country announced the closure of its borders and suspension of all international commercial flights until Friday, January 1.

UAE suspends flights to 3 Gulf countries

In light of the border closures, the UAE's airlines — Etihad, Emirates and Air Arabia — announced that flights to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait would be temporarily suspended.

Etihad Airways noted that flights to Saudi Arabia, Muscat and Kuwait would be suspended "until further notice".

In a notice on their website, Emirates said flights to Saudi Arabia would remain grounded till December 27, while those to Kuwait and Oman would be suspended till December 28.

Meanwhile, travel updates posted on the Air Arabia website noted that flights to and from Oman have been temporarily suspended until December 29, while flights to and from Kuwait would remain suspended until January 1, 2021.