Saudi Arabia will partially lift its suspension on international flights from September 15, the interior ministry said Sunday, six months after travel curbs were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport for Saudi citizens “after January 1” next year, the ministry added, without specifying an exact date.

Gulf citizens and non-Saudis with valid residency permits or visas will be allowed to enter the kingdom from September 15 as long as they are not infected with the virus, the ministry said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Other “exceptional categories”, including government and military employees, foreign embassy workers and people requiring medical treatment, will also be allowed from September 15.

The ministry added that Saudi Arabia will later announce a plan to gradually allow the umrah pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round umrah in March over fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading to Islam’s holiest cities.

The kingdom also organised a scaled-down hajj in late July, with only up to 10,000 Muslims taking part in the annual pilgrimage, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated last year.

Saudi Arabia suspended international flights in March, leaving many citizens and residents stranded overseas.

The kingdom has sought to contain a major spike in infections, which have now risen to more than 325,000 cases — the highest in the Gulf — and over 4,200 deaths.

In June, Saudi Arabia moved to end a coronavirus curfew across the kingdom and lift restrictions on businesses, including cinemas and other entertainment venues.

AFP