Saudi Arabia moved Monday to halt all international flights and travel in the face of a new strain of COVID-19 reported in the U.K. that experts say is spreading faster than previous mutations.
The Times of India reported that a notice from the country’s General Authority of Civil Aviation issued a notice indicating that the ban would be in place for one week, with the potential of being extended another seven days if deemed necessary to prevent a new surge of cases.
Officials are “suspending all international flights for travelers (except in exceptional cases) temporarily for one week, which can be extended for another week. Foreign flights currently in the territory of the Kingdom are allowed to leave,” read the notification obtained by the Times.
The country’s decision comes as roughly a dozen countries banned flights from the U.K. in response to warnings from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a new, faster-spreading strain of the coronavirus is active in southern England. Johnson moved over the weekend to close shops and other businesses as well as implement tougher restrictions on public gatherings, choices he said were not easy to make in the days ahead of Christmas.
Just over 361,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed within Saudi Arabia, and the country has so far appeared to avoid a second wave of infections the likes of which it experienced earlier this year. Despite this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website urges Americans to avoid all travel to the country due to a supposedly “very high” level of the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia.