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Planes preparing for take off at Riyadh King Khalid Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh airport is home port for Saudi Arabian Airlines. Image Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia has suspended all international flights for a week, extendable for another, amid mounting concern over a new strain of COVID-19, an official source at the Saudi Ministry of Interior said on Sunday.

The ban also applies to entry of passengers to the Kingdom through land and sea ports, the source said.

“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.

A number of European countries have imposed new travel restrictions and halted flights from and to Britain amid fear of the spread of the new virus strain.

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

The ban excludes movement of goods, commodities and supply chains from countries where the mutated virus has not appeared, as determined by the Ministry of Health in coordination with the Ministry of Transport, according to the statement.

The statement read, ”Based on what the Ministry of Health raised about the spread of a new mutated type of the COVID-19 in a number of countries, until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear, and a desire to take urgent measures to protect public health of citizens and residents and ensuring their safety, the Kingdom’s government has decided to take the following precautionary measures:

First, suspending all international flights for travelers - except in exceptional cases - temporarily for a period of one week, which can be extended for another week, with the exception of foreign flights that are currently in the Kingdom’s territory, so they are allowed to leave.

Second, suspending entry to the Kingdom through land and sea ports temporarily for a period of one week, which may be extended for another week.

Third, everyone who returned from one of the European countries or any country where the epidemic appeared, as determined by the Ministry of Health as of December 8 and to that date, must adhere to the following:

1. Home isolation for a period of two weeks, starting from the date he/she arrived in the Kingdom.
2. Undergo an examination for the COVID-19 during the isolation period, with a repeat examination every five days.

Fourth, anyone who returned from or passed through a European country or any country where the epidemic appeared - during the past three months - must undergo a test for the coronavirus.

Kuwait has banned flights coming from the UK after placing it on the list of high-risk countries amid concern over a new strain of COVID-19.

The ban comes after the British government announced the new faster-spreading strain of the COVID-19 virus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the new virus strain has led to a significant increase in the number of infected people in the country.

The British government also intensified its COVID-19 restrictions in London and nearby areas, disrupting Christmas celebration plans for millions of people in the country.