Fakeih: MERS under control

Updated 11 June 2014
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Fakeih: MERS under control

The Ministry of Health reported only two fresh MERS cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 700 including 287 deaths since the disease was first discovered in 2012. A Saudi and an expatriate from Makkah and Madinah respectively were the latest casualties.
Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih said that although the spread of MERS coronavirus is now under control, people should continue to be cautious and fight the challenge of combating the disease.
The minister was speaking at the inauguration of the three-day regional consultative meeting of the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region organized by the Saudi Center for the Adoption of Health Facilities in cooperation with the WHO regional office at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jeddah.
More than 50 experts and representatives of the ministries of health from Arab countries, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan attended the meeting.
Fakeih attributed the success in the control of the spread of the virus to health officials and members of the public.
He said that the ministry is keen on maintaining transparency in revealing accurate data of the developments in the spread of the virus. He said that the Health Ministry had discovered that 92 people had died of the coronovirus in the last two years but they had not been recorded.
“The Health Ministry discovered that 92 people had died of the coronovirus in the last two years following extensive verification and re-evaluation of previous medical records,” the minister recalled.
He explained that these deaths had occurred in hospitals which were not under the purview of the Health Ministry.
He added that there was no delay in the repatriation of dead bodies of expatriate workers who died of coronavirus.
Fakeih said that the ministry will offer incentives to those who have successfully contributed to the control of the virus in the Kingdom.
Touching on the consultative meeting, he said it gives an opportunity for all delegates to exchange their views and experiences with world renowned experts to deal with various health problems at national and regional levels.
World Health Organization’s senior executive for Eastern Mediterranean countries S. Siddiqui expressed concern over the increasing number of deaths due to lack of quality service in the region. He said that a proper health care system can save lives and also reduce government expenditure.


‘Because I can’: ride-hailing app welcomes Saudi women drivers

Updated 25 June 2018
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‘Because I can’: ride-hailing app welcomes Saudi women drivers

  • The Dubai-based ride-hailing app, along with global behemoth Uber, say they would begin to hire women
  • Seventy percent of Careem’s customers in Saudi Arabia are women

RIYADH: Reem Farahat waited for a ride request. Her phone pinged. “I’ve already cried twice,” she said, heading out to work as one of Saudi Arabia’s first female drivers for Careem.
The Dubai-based ride-hailing app, along with global behemoth Uber, reacted to Saudi King Salman’s September announcement of an end to the Kingdom’s ban on female motorists by saying it would begin to hire women.
On Sunday, when the king’s decree took effect, nearly a dozen Careem “captainahs” — all Saudi women — were ready to pick up riders.
“This morning, when I got in the car, I felt the tears coming,” Reem said as she stocked her car with chilled water bottles for her riders.
“I pulled the car over and cried. I could not believe that we now drive... It’s a dream. I thought it would be totally normal, I’d just get in the car and go. I was surprised by my own reaction.”
She took a long pause.
“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “I’m doing this because I can. Because someone has to start.”
Seventy percent of Careem’s customers in Saudi Arabia are women, according to company statistics, a figure largely attributable to the Kingdom’s now-obsolete ban on women driving.
Uber puts its equivalent figure closer to 80 percent.
At Careem’s offices on Sunday, staff gathered to celebrate the women’s first day on the job.
Farahat’s first ride request came just hours after the ban was officially lifted.
“This is my first ride. I’m excited. I’m excited to know who I’m picking up, what their reaction is going to be,” she said.
The driver — who also works with her father as a quality control consultant, is training in life coaching, and scuba dives with her sister off the Red Sea city of Jeddah — picked up Leila Ashry from a local cafe.
Walking toward the car, Leila spotted Reem, did a little jump of joy on the sidewalk, and was already chatting as she opened the door.
“Oh my god I can’t believe it’s you. I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe I’m here,” Leila said.
“I’ve been tweeting to my friends that my ride is coming and it’s a woman! And you’re so pretty! And I can sit in the front now — wait, can I actually sit in the front next to you?“
Some 2,000 women have signed up to get their Careem licenses since September, said Abdulla Elyas, co-founder and CPO — “chief people officer” — of the ride-hailing app. They are all Saudi women, from their 20s to their 50s.
Uber also plans to introduce women drivers to their service this autumn.
“They come from completely different backgrounds,” Elyas told AFP.
“We have women who have degrees, a master’s degree. We have women who have no degree at all. We have women who want to do this full time. We have women who want to do this part time (for) an additional income, who are already working.”
Most of those who had been licensed by Sunday, like Reem, had permits from foreign countries, enabling them to skip driving courses and take the final exam for a Saudi license.
The “captainahs” can pick up any customer, man or woman.
Both the driver and rider have the right to end the ride at any point.
Leila, a young medical student with a pixie cut and bright smile, says she would still choose a woman.
“This automatically feels a lot safer... being a female and dealing with sexism on a day-to-day basis. There’s just something about it that feels wonderful. But it’s not only that. It’s also women joining the workforce,” she said.
Sitting in the front passenger seat, she recalled previous rides with male drivers.
“Before, sometimes they would stare at me from the mirror,” she said.
“It’s just like that thing we share with women, where we just automatically understand what it’s like to be in that position where you feel their eyes on you but you can’t say anything, you can’t do anything against it.”
She turned to chat to Reem, and sang a riff from a West Side Story tune before saying: “If you can do it, then I can do it.”
“See? That’s what I was talking about,” Reem said. “It’s that ripple effect.”