KUWAIT: (From left) Minister of State for Services Affairs Abdullah Marafi, Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh and President of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Hmoud Al-Sabah visit Kuwait International Airport as flights resumed on Saturday. - KUNA

KUWAIT: Kuwait is suspending direct commercial flights to and from Britain as of Wednesday, Jan 6 at 4:00 am until further notice, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said yesterday. Meanwhile, Kuwait is planning to operate limited flights for Kuwaiti citizens from a number of countries with which it has halted flights for more than four months now to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The flights will be operated by Kuwait Airways. Instructions have been issued to open reservations for flights from the banned countries for Kuwaiti nationals, their first-degree relatives and domestic workers, DGCA Director General Yousef Al-Fouzan confirmed to Kuwait Times. Kuwait has banned direct flights from 35 countries over COVID-19 concerns.

On Saturday, three Cabinet ministers monitored safety measures at Kuwait International Airport as commercial flights resumed after a brief suspension aimed to stem the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus. The decision to reopen Kuwait's land and sea borders, in addition to resuming commercial passenger air traffic, was made as more information was collected on the new COVID-19 variant believed to be more transmissible than the initial strain, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh told KUNA.

Several flights carrying Kuwaitis stranded abroad because of the airport closure have already been arranged, the minister added, urging his compatriots to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which Kuwait is providing free of charge. Citing "meticulous preparation", Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah said the airport is ready to welcome all arrivals in Kuwait, advising nationals to avoid all "non-essential" overseas travel at this juncture, adding that measures have been taken to curb the potential spread of new COVID-19 strains. The two ministers, along with Minister of State for Services Affairs Abdullah Marafi, thanked all state bodies involved for their commitment towards protecting public health.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia yesterday announced the reopening of borders and the resumption of international flights after a two-week suspension. The government ordered the lifting of "precautionary measures related to the spread of a new variant of coronavirus", the ministry of interior said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 363,000 cases, including over 6,200 deaths - the highest among the Gulf Arab states - but has also reported a high recovery rate. Riyadh suspended international flights and access through land crossings and ports on Dec 21. Oman, which had taken similar measures, had lifted them in recent days.

But travellers returning from Britain, South Africa or "any country where the new variant of the coronavirus is spreading" are subject to more restrictions, the statement added. Foreigners coming from those countries must spend 14 days in another country before entering Saudi Arabia, and show a negative test. Saudi nationals returning from those countries will be able to enter directly - but must then spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival, and be subject to tests. - Agencies