DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia has removed the United Arab Emirates from its COVID-19 banned list after two months, a ban that fueled tension between the neighbors.
The official Saudi Press Agency says starting Wednesday, Saudi citizens can travel to the UAE, among other destinations previously branded as red zones because of their high levels of infection. Those who violated the restrictions faced a three-year travel ban from the kingdom.
Although Saudi officials had attributed the July flight ban on the UAE to a surge in coronavirus cases, the move came as economic competition and political friction emerged between the Gulf Arab heavyweights, injecting uncertainty into their long-standing alliance.
The end of the flight ban comes just weeks ahead of 2020 World Expo held in Dubai, which was pushed back a year because of the pandemic.
Despite the coronavirus, the UAE is counting on Expo to draw millions of visitors and billions of dollars to stimulate the economy and showcase its achievements on the world stage. Dubai expects an influx of Saudi tourists for the massive in-person event, with Saudi Arabia due to have one of the Expo’s largest pavilions.