Shortly after Saudi Arabia began easing its COVID-19 restrictions, it now seems that the country is in danger of suspending Umrah and international flights again due to the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, which is causing concern around the world.
On November 26, 2021, WHO (World Health Organization) designated a new variant of Covid 19 named Omicron as a variant of concern, which quickly prompted a new round of travel restrictions around the world and raised concerns about what might happen next in the pandemic.
The new variant was first detected in South Africa but where it came from is unknown. According to WHO, now the number of variant cases seems to be increasing in almost every province in the country.
It is also known that the variant has also been found in Belgia, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, and England, which means the variant has spread, although still unclear how far as the new cases continue to appear around the world.
Within days of the discovery of the variant, several countries began imposing new international travel restrictions to prevent the newly identified strain.
Australia, Britain, the United States, Japan, Thailand are among the countries that will start restricting travel from South Africa and impose new quarantine rules for those arriving from the region.
Although there has been no official announcement from the Saudi Arabian government at the time this article was written, it seems that the country will also be suspending international travel following the emergence of this Omicron variant. This travel restriction will, of course, also have an impact on international Umrah regulations, which were recently relaxed.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that the kingdom had allowed overseas pilgrims to apply for Umrah permits through the mobile application as the coronavirus precautionary measures have begun easing.
However, of course, the Saudi Arabian government will surely update the decision while still paying attention to the development of this new variant.
According to information available on the official WHO website, the severity of infection and transmissibility is not yet evident. Still, research is currently underway to better understand many aspects of Omicron, and research findings will continue to be shared.