Saudi Arabia and COVID-19

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Sarah Peddie

We are living in strange and unprecedented times, nobody knows when normality will resume as the coronavirus pandemic changes everyday life as we know it. 

In this series, here at Odyssey Recruitment, we look at the different countries around the world where our clients are based and take a look to see how they have handled the coronavirus outbreak. 

Saudi Arabia has almost 60,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 throughout the Kingdom (as of May 20) with 329 deaths. We look at the steps the country made to make sure they tackled the virus and contained it at a reasonable level. 

When the coronavirus outbreak was spreading around the world, the Saudi Government set out three immediate priorities that was key to tackling the coronavirus - comprehensive approach, health for all and leadership for a global response. A mass test and isolate programme was put in place to prevent and contain the virus. Fields of teams carried out active screening in high density neighbourhoods with a high number of cases that have already been diagnosed. 

The country had shut its borders and travel between provinces was restricted. Curfews were put in place in larger cities, schools and universities across the country were closed, as well as Mosques, Umrah was suspended and there were restrictions on public activities during the period of Ramadan. 

The government wanted to get the awareness of the coronavirus out to the general public of the Kingdom and created an information campaign in 12 different languages to engage the public in prevention and control activities and to also tackle rumours and fake news surrounding the virus. 

47 billion SAR was given to the Ministry of Health to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus in Saudi Arabia. They set up local production of masks and sanitation products started. 80,000 hospital beds were set up for COVID-19 patrients, along with 8,000 Intensive Care Units and 2,100 beds for suspected cases. Free treatment was also available for citizens, residents and even undocumented people staying illegally in Saudi Arabia.

E-Health services were made more available and virtual consultations were put in place to protect citizens. A mobile app was produced to monitor conditions of suspected cases. 

Saudi pledged $500 million to support regional and international organisations to develop and deploy vaccines as well as donation $10 million to the World Health Organistaion appeal to minimise the spread and support countries with vulnerable health infrastructures.

Some of the restrictions were starting to be lifted at the end of April with malls and shopping markets reopening - albeit with very strict guidelines that had to be followed. These included social distancing, wearing face masks, advising children and the elderly to stay at home and making sure all customers were screened for body temperatures before entering. They had also relaxed the restrictive movements during curfew and allowed residents to roam over the cities apart from Makkah. 

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