Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far

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Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki of the Interior Ministry, left, and Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami of the Traffic Department at the press conference. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
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A Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry spokesperson says the Ministry of Interior has established six driving schools for women in different regions of the Kingdom. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far

  • Six specialized driving schools have been issued licenses to train women in driving in five cities across the Kingdom.
  • Twenty-two centers have been opened in 22 cities and governorates to exchange foreign driving licenses for local ones for Saudi female citizens and residents.

RIYADH:  The Saudi government is doing everything to ensure safe driving, with regulations, laws and punishments applied equally to men and women without discrimination, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, said on Sunday.

He said the ministry has received more than 120,000 applications for driving licenses so far and demand is still very high.

“Our preparation for this historic day started after the issuance of the royal decree,” Al-Turki said in a press conference. “We took into consideration the general safety of the traffic across the country.” 

There has been a huge effort put in to reduce the number of accidents, and to address the lack of driving experience among Saudi women, he added.

Al-Turki stressed that: “Six specialized driving schools have been issued licenses to train women in driving in five cities across the Kingdom. Four of these schools have already started operations and the fifth one in Qassim is nearing completion.

“Furthermore, we had already prepared 22 centers in 22 cities and governorates to exchange foreign driving licenses for local ones for Saudi female citizens and residents. We also intensified the use of technology on roads to ensure the ideal execution of all safety measures. We were keen to provide the technology needed to identify female drivers while driving (identifying her without asking her to remove her cover if she is covering).

“We trained 40 Saudi women for traffic checking (field checking) and they will start working within a few weeks as investigation assistants for investigating accidents,” he said. 

The Interior Ministry spokesman said: “Very strict harassment legislation was issued before the implementation of women driving; actually this legislation was issued to stand against harassment in all its forms and in all places, including the ones that can happen on road, and protect everyone, not only women, in the society from this brutal action.

“We took a very important step and I can safely say that we succeeded in achieving all the objectives we had nine months ago to ensure safe driving for everyone. We equally trust both females and males in sticking to the regulations and safety measures.”

The director general of the Traffic Department, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami, said his department had sent a number of police officers overseas to get trained on how to investigate car accidents, and since their return, they have been training their peers across the country. 

“We have developed an online site to specify dates for license exchange and have also developed an identity verification system. We closely cooperated with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to improve insurance packages and regulations. A strong database has been developed; speed limit signs, radars and CCTV are increased.

“We will announce the readiness of more cities and governorates to train women in more driving schools by next week,” Al-Bassami said.

When asked about the possibility of foreign women visiting Saudi Arabia to rent a car, Al-Turki said: “Yes, definitely, she only has to have a license and then she can.”

Asked whether any accidents or violations had been recorded, he said: “No. Besides, it is too early to start issuing figures. We have noticed in the past few hours that women are very responsible and aware.”

The speakers said that the authorities were studying the possibility of raising fines in order to reduce deaths and accidents.

Asked about the fine when catching an unlicensed woman driving, Al- Bassami said: “What applies for male drivers will definitely apply to females. Equal treatment for both.”

It also becomes a woman’s right to rent a car or make business related to buying, selling and renting cars. He added that Saudi women must immediately exchange their foreign driving license while a female visitor’s case will depend on her paperwork and residence duration. However, they commented that some women who had foreign driving license did not pass the driving test in Saudi Arabia, which is a sign that the Kingdom is following highest standards to ensure safe driving. 


Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

Updated 21 July 2019
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Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

  • 257,981 pilgrims benefited from the "preventive services" since the new initiative’s launch

RIYADH: One of the services provided by the Makkah Route initiative, which aims to smooth the Hajj journey of pilgrims and provide top-quality service, is to ensure that all health requirements are met.

The Communication, Relations and Health Awareness General Department of the Ministry of Health is implementing the initiative in two ways. 

The first is to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa (Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Tunisia). 

The second is to check that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

“Preventive measures” mean, for example, providing polio vaccines for pilgrims. The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), is provided through the Pakistani health authorities at the departure area of the airport.

“The ministry is also deploying a team of five people qualified to supervise the application of health requirements and assess the vaccination procedure and the application of preventive measures,” the department added.   


HIGHLIGHTS

The Makkah Route initiative aims to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa.

The initiative also ensures that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals.

The teams include 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.


The ministry’s procedures in the departure hall include prepping emergency clinics at the points where Makkah Route pilgrims are received. 

These clinics deal with urgent cases, prepare awareness information for pilgrims and coordinate with the General Authority of Civil Aviation regarding their distribution on the targeted airlines.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals, including 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.

The ministry stated that the number of health practitioners assigned to the service of pilgrims during Hajj “is more than 30,000.”

The ministry encourages volunteering during the Hajj season; it believes that it is a very important and noble service toward fellow citizens, nations and the religion, where Islam highly encourages volunteering and serving others.

The ministry is coordinating the major institutions and commissions via its Hajj volunteering link to register volunteers so that they can participate through the societal partnership program.

The missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices provide basic treatment services and refer patients to the ministry’s health facilities, keeping an eye on the overall health situation and reporting any suspicious infectious diseases. 

The ministry monitors all the health institutions and medical missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices to make sure the health requirements are being properly applied, to ensure pilgrims’ safety and guarantee an environment free of infectious diseases.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that so far that there has been no incidence of any epidemic diseases or quarantine cases recorded among pilgrims, who arrived and the health situation is reassuring.

Since the first of Dul Qaada, the ministry has provided preventive services, via access points, to 257,981 pilgrims, with a total rate of commitment to vaccination reached  87.4 percent for meningitis, 67.3 percent for yellow fever and 95.3 percent for polio.