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With Improving COVID Numbers, MENA Region Attempts to Draw Visitors From Abroad
Saudi passengers arrive at King Khaled International airport in the capital Riyadh on May 17, 2021, as Saudi authorities lift travel restrictions for citizens immunized against COVID-19. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images)

With Improving COVID Numbers, MENA Region Attempts to Draw Visitors From Abroad

Saudi Arabia reportedly close to allowing foreign visitors, contributes $100 million to bolster global tourism

As Israel opened up its borders to small groups of inoculated visitors from abroad for the first time since 2020, Saudi Arabia is reportedly close to renewing its tourist visa program for overseas visitors.

The reported decision comes on the heels of Riyadh’s announcement May 26 that it would contribute $100 million to a novel International Fund for Comprehensive Tourism with the World Bank, to help support the beleaguered industry worldwide as it tries to recover from the financial toll of the pandemic. That same day, the UN World Tourism Organization opened its first bureau outside of Spain in the Saudi Arabian capital.

While COVID-19 numbers have improved in Saudi Arabia and Israel, Egypt, which is struggling to lower its rate of coronavirus infections, has allowed outdoor venues such as beaches and parks, as well as dining establishments, to remain open despite closures and more stringent restrictions in other sectors.

Elsewhere in region, Reuters reports that the United Arab Emirates announced on May 25 that all in-person activities and events would require vaccination for entry, including cultural activities and other public functions, starting June 6.

Qatar announced on May 26 that it would start relaxing restrictions, allowing venues including gyms and sporting events to open, albeit not at full capacity.

Its neighbor, Bahrain, however, is struggling to contain a surge in infections that compelled the government to shut down public spaces including malls and restaurants for 14 days, beginning on May 27. On May 23, Bahrain recorded its largest number of deaths in a single day, a total of 24, since the start of the pandemic last year.

Roya News reported that on May 26 Jordan vaccinated the highest number of citizens against the coronavirus in one day since it started administering vaccine doses, with over 78,000 people receiving shots.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 12:45 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.


CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories306,7953,483299,5593,753
Saudi Arabia444,7807,295427,46210,023
United Arab Emirates563,2151,664543,02318,528


Steven Ganot contributed to this report.


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