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Passengers coming from China wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus are checked by Saudi Health Ministry employees upon their arrival at King Khalid International Airport, in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia to ease COVID-19 international travel restrictions on Tuesday

Saudi Arabia will partially lift the suspension of international flights from Sept. 15, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday, six months after travel restrictions were imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport “after Jan. 1” next year, the ministry said, on a specific date to be announced in December.

Meanwhile Gulf state citizens and non-Saudis with “iqama” residency permits or visit visas may enter the Kingdom from Sept. 15 provided they have tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 48 hours.

Other “exceptional categories,” such as government and military employees, foreign embassy workers and people requiring medical treatment, will also be allowed entry and exit from Sept. 15.

Young Saudis studying abroad can breathe a sigh of relief, as the exceptions also cover scholarship students, self-sponsored students, trainees in medical fellowship programs whose studies or training require travel to other countries.

“After receiving my acceptance letter from a university in Holland while under lockdown to continue my studiesfor my PhD, I kept my hopes up and waited for the announcement to come,” said Jawaher Abdulattif, fromJeddah. “The news is a surprise, to say the least, but a good one. I can finally begin arranging for my flight and begin my studies properly.”

Families separated by the lockdown may also travel to join their loved ones outside the Kingdom as authorities have included them in humanitarian cases.

Saudis with proof of residency outside the Kingdom may also travel, and there will be a gradual move toward lifting the Umrah pilgrimage suspension.

This article first appeared in Arab News

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