Gulf countries close borders, cancel flights after new coronavirus strain in UK; NRIs in trouble
Riyadh: The Gulf countries have closed their borders and suspended international flights for one week following the discovery of a new coronavirus strain in the United Kingdom. At present, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait have closed their borders. With this, many people including Keralites who were planning to return to their native places and workplace were stuck.
Apart from flight services, international travel via road and sea also were banned in these countries. The restrictions in Kuwait started on Monday and Oman will implement it from Tuesday. Saudi and Oman closed their borders for one week. The restrictions will be in force till January 1. However, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have not announced any new restrictions yet.
The flight companies in UAE also informed that they have cancelled flight services considering the instruction of the Saudi government. This was a setback for many Keralites who were planning to return to Saudi Arabia. As no direct flight services are available to Saudi, the NRIs were going there via UAE. Those who already reached UAE en route Saudi are now stuck there.
On Saturday, UK health officials announced that the country had identified a new variant of the coronavirus that is 70 percent more transmissible than other Sars-Cov-2 virus strains. The UK government practically locked down parts of the country, including London, after admitting that more than half of all new COVID-19 cases had been caused by the new strain.
As UK citizens rushed out of the locked-down areas ahead of Christmas, many countries chose to close borders with the whole of the United Kingdom in a bid to prevent the import of the new virus strain. Many countries including India have cancelled flight services to UK and back following the outbreak.
The new coronavirus variant, which infects more easily but does not appear to be more deadly or pose any concerns for vaccines, has also been detected in the Netherlands, Denmark, South Africa and Australia.
(With inputs from agencies)