In an attempt to boost take-up, Saudi Arabia has announced that individuals who refuse to receive a Covid vaccine will be banned from overseas travel, pilgrimages, and entering universities, shopping malls, or office blocks.
From August 1, it will be mandatory for anyone in the Kingdom to have had a Covid vaccination before they are allowed to return to work in office buildings or enter government buildings, educational establishments, shopping malls, entertainment venues, and public transport.
Saudi Arabia introduced a travel ban in 2020, as the pandemic spread globally, but it has since been lifted for vaccinated citizens or those with some immunity due to having recently recovered from the virus.
Previously, the Kingdom limited the Umrah pilgrimage to those who were fully vaccinated or had recovered from Covid in the past six months, with the annual Hajj now facing similar restrictions, limiting access to the key trip for Muslims.
The move from Saudi Arabia officials is designed to increase pressure on vaccine sceptics to get a Covid jab, instead of risking the success of the fight against the virus and limiting the ability of countries to reopen post-pandemic. While some nations, such as the United States, have sought to offer financial incentives to encourage more people to have Covid vaccines, Saudi Arabia has taken the alternative approach of restricting the activities of anti-vaxxers.
Riyadh is hoping to speed up its vaccination program to allow officials to revive its ‘Vision 2030’ plans, which were unveiled in 2016, to open up the Kingdom to tourists, moving the nation away from its oil-reliant past.
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Saudi Arabia’s plan to tackle vaccine sceptics comes after Bahrain barred unvaccinated citizens from most public venues, with only essential businesses exempt from the restrictions. Only those aged 18 or over who’ve had their second vaccine shot within 14 days or have recovered from Covid will be able to enter the restricted venues in Bahrain.
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