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After A 17-Month Long Closure | Saudi Arabia Reopens To Vaccinated Tourists

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced Friday, July 30, that   it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists after a 17-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state news agency said.

However, Riyadh did not announce any lifting of restrictions on Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any time, which usually attracts millions of devoted Muslims from across the globe each year.

“The Ministry of Tourism announced that the Kingdom will open its doors to foreign tourists, and lift the suspension of entry for tourist visa holders, starting from August 1,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It said travellers fully vaccinated with Saudi-approved jabs — Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson will be able to enter the kingdom “without the need for an institutional quarantine period”, provided they also have proof of a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours and register their details with health authorities.

Riyadh has spent billions trying to build a tourism industry from scratch, as part of efforts to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

The once-reclusive kingdom began issuing tourist visas for the first time in 2019, part of an ambitious push to revamp its global image and draw visitors.

Covid-19 also hugely disrupted the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, usually a key revenue earner for the kingdom in normal times, they together rake in some $12 billion (10.3 billion euros) annually.

Currently only immunised pilgrims resident in Saudi Arabia are eligible for Umrah permits.

The government has accelerated a nationwide vaccination drive as it moves to revive tourism and host sports and entertainment extravaganzas, all pandemic-hit sectors.

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