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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Expat workers trying to return to Saudi Arabia through regional hubs, including Dubai, may be forced to turn around and head home.
This follows a statement by the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi advising its nationals stranded in the UAE en route to the Kingdom and Kuwait to return to India.
Many expats have been trapped in the UAE for weeks due to flight suspensions, and are desperately looking for other options to reach Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom suspended entry from 20 countries from Feb. 3 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Exceptions to the ban include diplomats, and medical staff and their families.
Countries on the Kingdom’s banned list are the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Japan.
The ban also applies to travelers who transit through any of the 20 countries in the 14 days before a planned visit to the Kingdom.
Expats returning to Saudi Arabia were mostly using Dubai to transit from countries with no direct flights to the Kingdom — an option that is no longer available.
Two expats, Abdul Majeed Salim and Krisn Mohan from the eastern Indian state of Bihar, told Arab News they have been in transit in Dubai for 18 days.
Both work with International Channel Center Electronics Service Co. Ltd. in Alkhobar and went home on vacation about six months ago.
Now they are looking at other flight options to reach Saudi Arabia.
“We had almost completed our 14-day mandatory quarantine and were about to return to the Kingdom when the flight suspensions were announced. We are stuck in Dubai due to the ban,” they said.
“We are exploring other flights to enter Saudi Arabia via Kuwait, Qatar, Oman or Bahrain. Our company is fully supportive and advised us to look at other available routes.”
Mohammad Aslam Jameel, a supervisor at a Riyadh travel company, said: “The travel ban has affected returning expats, especially from India, who were coming via Dubai with a 15-day stopover. As per requests we are receiving, people now are rerouting via Bahrain.”
The travel ban follows a global surge in virus cases due to new strains first detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
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