Gulf countries close borders over British virus variant

Gulf countries say they will halt all passenger flights and close their borders for a week or longer, after a new strain of coronavirus spreads quickly in England.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman say they are suspending commercial travel and banning entry and exit via their land and sea borders, other than for cargo.

Riyadh said it is stopping international flights for at least one week and possibly two, the official Saudi Press Agency reported late on Sunday night.

“Entry to the kingdom through land and sea ports will also be suspended for a week, which can be extended by another week,” SPA added, citing the interior ministry.

The suspension does not apply to international aircraft currently in the kingdom, which will be allowed to leave, SPA said.

Cargo into Saudi Arabia will only be permitted from countries where the new strain has not been identified as having broken out.

The Gulf sultanate of Oman announces it will close its “land, air and sea border starting 1:00 am local time on Tuesday” for a week, the official Oman News Agency reports.

The decision was based on what “authorities in a number of countries announced regarding the emergence of a new Covid-19 strain,” it says, but would not affect cargo flights or cargo vessels.

Neighboring Kuwait — which had on Sunday initially placed a ban on passenger flights from Britain — announced that it will now suspend all commercial flights until at least January 1, according to a government statement.

The developments come after several European countries banned travel from Britain on Sunday as the UK government warned that a highly infectious new strain of the virus was “out of control.”