Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that it would reopen its borders to vaccinated foreign tourists, after a seventeen-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the national news agency said. Riyadh, however, has not announced a lifting of restrictions on the Umrah pilgrimage, which attracts millions of Muslims from around the world each year.
“The Ministry of Tourism has announced that the kingdom will open its doors to foreign tourists and raise […] the suspension of entry for holders of tourist visas, from August 1, ”the Saudi press agency reported. Travelers fully vaccinated with vaccines approved by the Saudi authorities (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) will be able to enter the kingdom “without having to respect quarantine”, if they prove a negative PCR test of less than 72 hours, the agency said.
Vaccination compulsory from August 1
Saudi Arabia, which has invested billions in the tourism industry to diversify its oil economy, issued its first tourist visas in 2019. Between September 2019 and the border closure in March 2020, it issued 400,000 tourist visas. The Covid-19 epidemic has also severely disrupted Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, open only to vaccinated pilgrims residing in the country.
Since the start of the health crisis, the country has officially registered more than 523,000 cases of coronavirus, including 8,213 deaths.
To date, 26 million doses of vaccine have been administered for a population of 35 million, but the government has announced that as of August 1, vaccination will be compulsory to enter public and private establishments. This decision will also affect schools and places of entertainment as well as public transport.