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Saudi Arabia extends reopening of borders to Shawwal

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is extending its travel-restriction period and shift the date for reopening the Kingdom’s borders from March 31 to May 17 due to delays in delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, authorities said on Friday.

The Ministry of Interior announcement came just weeks after the Saudi government penciled in the end of March to reopen the country’s land, sea, and air entry points for travel following a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases.

On Jan. 8, it had also set March 31 as the date to lift the suspension of international flights. The latest decision was based on a statement by the Saudi health minister revealing that COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers had failed to meet deadlines for the delivery of contracted batches. A second wave of the virus spreading rapidly around the world, had also influenced the move, the ministry added.

Before lifting travel restrictions for Saudis and reopening borders, the Kingdom was aiming to inoculate most of the population against the virus while in the process keeping infection rates to a minimum.

Saudi Arabia suspended flights in December after the emergence of a new and more infectious variant of COVID-19. Dr. Shaikh Abdullah, a physician at Riyadh’s King Abdullah Specialist Hospital and Research Center, told Arab News that extending the country’s travel ban was a “wise” step by the government.

An Arab News Report

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