Jeddah: NRIs in the Gulf region and those stranded back home in India due to travel ban have eagerly been watching the latest developments as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations gradually roll out travel policies for vaccinated travellers.
Passengers arriving in Saudi Arabia must submit a vaccination certificate showing they have received the approved shot, according to guidelines issued by the General Authority of Civil Aviation. The approved vaccines include Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca (known as Covishield), Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen. People inoculated with these vaccines are exempted from mandatory institutional quarantine.
The Saudi authorities instructed air carriers to add the full cost of institutional quarantine to airline tickets for non-immune passengers. However, the institutional quarantine charges are higher than airfares, and NRIs are forced to shell out money despite taking shots of indigenously manufactured vaccine — Covaxin.
Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar also indicated that they would adopt similar policies for vaccinated travellers based on suggestions from their respective health departments or are likely to allow passengers vaccinated with jabs approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We didn’t travel home for the last two years, and the wait may get longer with the vaccination norms being tightened,” said a prominent NRI activist in Qatar, Sridhar Abbagoni.
Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, may not be included in the list, at least in the initial months of international travel as it has not been recognised by any of the Gulf countries because the WHO has not approved it.
Last week, several NRI workers, who entered Saudi Arabia from Bahrain by road, were sent back for not possessing vaccination certificates. This forced them to enter the country only by air after purchasing institutional quarantine packages.
According to sources, the Indian government is working towards an expeditious WHO approval of Covaxin as not only the Gulf but also the US and many European countries are likely to reopen their borders soon.
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