Turmoil over COVID-19 mutation: border closures in Middle East

Shutterstock / Roxane 134

Outbreak of new coronavirus mutation prompts countries to close their air borders.

Saudi Arabia 

On December 21, 2020, Saudi Arabia banned all international flights and suspended entry to the country via all its land and sea borders for at least a week with the possibility to extend the restrictions by another week. Only the movement of goods from countries where the new COVID-19 strain has not appeared will be allowed.

Interior Ministry announced that foreign flights already in the country would be able to leave. Passengers who arrived from European countries or any other country where cases of the new strain were reported, are required to self-isolate for the two-week-long period as well as undergo the COVID-19 testing.


Starting December 22, 2020, Oman’s land, air and sea borders will be shut for one week. The decision exempts cargo flights. 

“(The decision) was taken after the emergence of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus and to protect community members from the severity of the infection and to contain its spreading,” the state news agency announced.


From 11pm on December 21, 2020, Kuwait suspended all international flights until January 1, 2020. Only cargo operations will continue, according to the government communications office.

On December 20, 2020, the civil aviation authority in Kuwait added the UK to its high-risk list of countries and banned all the flights from it. 


Israel’s government decided to close borders and let only passengers with special permits, such as diplomats, to enter the country. 

“The viral mass entering Israel must be reduced as much as possible even as in England they are currently checking what exactly this virus is, whether it is resistant to the vaccine and additional questions. In order to do this, I ask that we duplicate what we did during the first wave of the coronavirus: To close the skies as quickly as possible,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Cabinet meeting on December 21, 2020. 

From December 23, 2020, Israelis returning from abroad will be required to be isolated in a coronavirus hotel from 10 to14 days. Airlines, including El Al, Arkia and FlyDubai, are preparing to operate a massive airlift to help the Israelis abroad to return home as soon as possible. 

“Arkia is preparing to operate an airlift from Dubai in light of the many requests made by passengers looking to return before the quarantine guidelines come into effect. The company is preparing to operate the airlift around the clock,” said Oz Berlowitz, the vice-president at Arkia airline. 

On December 21, 2020, more than 25 countries around the world announced air travel restrictions due to the spread of a new virus mutation in the UK and more countries are expected to follow. 


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