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The New Arab

Britain, US working with Saudi Arabia to fly their citizens home

British citizens are stranded in Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 March, 2020

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Saudi Arabia is working with Britain and the US to fly citizens home.
Saudi Arabian Airlines is launching exceptional commercial flights this week in an effort to bring British and US nationals home as coronavirus spreads across the world.

Flights are being arranged to fly British nationals back to the United Kingdom and American citizens to return to the US, both countries revealed.

Flights from London Heathrow Airport will begin on Sunday from Riyadh, and then Jeddah and Dammam later on, according to an email sent on Friday to Reuters.

The US embassy revealed it was working with Saudi authorities to arrange repatriation flights on a commercial airline.

No flights have been confirmed.

This comes as countries across the Middle East have enacted travel restrictions and social distancing measures in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended travel to Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

The ban was later extended to include France, Germany, Spain and Turkey according to a statement released by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Saudi Arabia faced criticism over "reckless" behaviour that could make the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout worse, even as Riyadh convenes a virtual G20 meeting on the fast-spreading contagion.

A United States lawmaker, campaign groups and online activists have all criticised Riyadh for aggravating already-jittery markets with an oil price war with Russia, and for bombing hospitals in Yemen and leaving civilians vulnerable to Covid-19 there.

The criticism comes as Saudi Arabia, which holds the rotating chair of the Group of 20 major world economies, convenes a virtual leaders' meeting on Thursday to discuss a fiscal stimulus to buoy a faltering global economy.

Read More: Coronavirus: Travel restrictions, border shutdowns across the Middle East

Sunjeev Bery, the executive director of Freedom Forward, an anti-autocrat campaign group, said the young Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was a "terrible host" for tackling the pandemic.

"The Saudi ruler is an extraordinarily reckless individual who risks making the global coronavirus pandemic even worse," Bery told The New Arab.

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