March 28, 2020 / 7:11 AM / 4 months ago

Britain, U.S. working with Saudis to repatriate citizens

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian Airlines will begin exceptional commercial flights this week to bring British nationals and their families back to the United Kingdom, and similar flights are being arranged for U.S. citizens to return home, both countries said.

Flights to London Heathrow will begin on Sunday from Riyadh and later in the week from Jeddah and Dammam, according to a British Embassy e-mail sent late on Friday. A second Riyadh flight is also expected.

The U.S. Embassy said in a consular e-mail on Saturday it was working with the Saudi authorities to arrange repatriation flights on a commercial airline, but no flights had been confirmed yet.

Saudi Arabia suspended all international passenger flights in and out of the country for two weeks starting March 14 to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus around the globe, but there is no indication normal travel will resume on Sunday.

The kingdom recorded 99 new cases on Saturday, taking its total to more than 1,200 coronavirus infections - the most in the Gulf Arab region - with four fatalities.

Britain has recorded more than 14,500 cases, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and heir to the throne Prince Charles, with 759 deaths. More than 1,500 Americans have been killed among over 100,000 reported infections, the most of any country.

The British Embassy in the United Arab Emirates said on Twitter that 32 Britons had departed on Saturday morning on a flydubai flight with a connection to London, and that it was working with UAE authorities and airlines to arrange more flights amid similar travel restrictions there.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin; writing by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by Mark Potter and Ros Russell

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