Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears
A police officer wears a face mask to prevent contracting coronavirus as Muslim pilgrims pray near the Kaaba in the Grand mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 27, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 February 2020

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for Umrah pilgrimage over coronavirus fears
  • Emirates will not allow Umrah pilgrims or tourists from nearly two dozen countries to fly to the Kingdom
  • Health ministry says no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims in an attempt to ensure public safety by preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Most foreign pilgrims often visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before or after the completion of their religious duties in Makkah, this has also been halted.

It is one of a number of precautionary restrictions announced early on Thursday as health authorities in the Kingdom closely monitor the spread of the virus. Tourist-visa holders from countries judged to pose a particularly high risk of spreading the virus will also be denied entry.

The Saudi health ministry said again on Thursday that there were ‘no known cases’ in the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said it supports Saudi Arabia’s actions to protect pilgrims and visitors from coronavirus.

The Egyptian Dar Al-Iftaa also said Saudi Arabia’s decision to temporarily suspend Umrah visas over the coronavirus outbreak was in accordance with Sharia law.

The suspension of Umrah visas due to the coronavirus outbreak preserves the lives of pilgrims, it said.

Indonesia on Thusday said they asked the Kingdom to allow its citizens to continue their Umrah pilgrimage, with hundreds of pilgrims stranded at Jakarta airport following the temporary ban.

Later in the day, Dubai's Emirates said it would no longer carry to Saudi Arabia passengers with Umrah pilgrimage visas or tourists from nearly two dozen countries starting Thursday, until further notice.

In addition, Saudi nationals and citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council nations will not be able to use a national identity card to travel to and from the Kingdom for the time being. Exceptions to this shall be granted to Saudis returning home, and citizens of GCC countries who are in the Kingdom and want to return to their home countries, provided that they left or entered the Kingdom using a national identity card.

Health authorities at entry points will verify which countries travelers visited before arriving in Saudi Arabia and apply all necessary precautionary measures.

Saudi officials stressed that the restrictions are temporary and will be continuously reviewed by the health authorities. They reiterated the Kingdom’s support for and implementation of international efforts to limit the spread of the virus, and the Foreign Ministry urged citizens not to travel to the countries worst affected by the coronavirus.

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Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.

Earlier, it emerged that seven Saudis are among the latest coronavirus cases in Bahrain and Kuwait. The Bahraini Ministry of Health on Wednesday said six Saudi women has tested positive for the virus.

They had arrived at Bahrain International Airport on a flight from Iran. The total number of confirmed cases in the country stands at 26. Studies at schools and universities have been suspended for two weeks in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

Kuwait announced the first case of a Saudi citizen infected by the virus. The man, who had arrived in the country from the Iranian city of Mashhad, has been placed in quarantine for 14 days. There have been 26 confirmed cases of the virus to date in Kuwait.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has been providing neighboring Arab countries with advice and guidelines for controlling infectious diseases such as the coronavirus and dealing with health emergencies.

Dr. Hani bin Abdul Aziz Jokhdar, the deputy minister of public health, said that the guidelines were based on Saudi Arabia’s experience of protecting the health and well-being of pilgrims during Hajj season.

He led the Kingdom’s delegation at a meeting of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Ministers for Health on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.


Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
Updated 43 min 37 sec ago

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 1,070 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 940 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 483

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,846.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,070 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,626 remain active and 1,105 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 483, followed by Makkah with 209, the Eastern Province with 157, Madinah recorded 44, and Asir confirmed 39 cases.

The ministry also announced that 940 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 390,538.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 141 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.01 million.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
Updated 42 min 45 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and China’s president discuss climate change

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to strengthening relations. (File/SPA/AFP)
  • Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative, with China as a major partner
  • They also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.
During the call, the two leader reviewed the recently announced Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative to combat environmental challenges in the region.
The crown prince announced the two initiatives in late March that aim to form partnerships with regional countries to tackle afforestation, reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent, and protect the marine environment, among other projects.
The crown prince and the president discussed the contributions of these two initiatives toward achieving global targets to combat climate change, and their influential role in raising the quality of life in the region and the world at large.
The crown prince said the Kingdom is working to organize an annual summit for the Middle East Green Initiative in the presence of leaders and officials in the environmental field, adding that China will be a major partner for the initiative.
The Chinese president said Beijing supported both initiatives, stressing the importance of their support by the international community.
Xi told the crown prince that China wants to advance its strategic partnership with the Kingdom.
The crown prince and the president also discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and technology.
Prince Mohammed said his country was ready to strengthen the interconnection between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
During the call, Xi said Beijing “is willing to work with Saudi Arabia and other members of the international community to build an equitable climate governance regime that is cooperative and beneficial to all,” Xinhua news agency reported.
The Chinese president also called for joint efforts to comprehensively and effectively implement “the Paris Agreement on climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.”


Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

DUBAI: The Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait on Tuesday, state TV Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Kingdom has seen an increase in attacks by the militia after the US delisted the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations.

Last month, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak condemned recent attacks by the Houthis, saying that they hindered the peace process and blamed Iran for the ongoing crisis in the country.
“The Iranian interventions have become a formidable obstruction to peace as Iran has turned the Yemeni conflict into a negotiating card that Iranian regime capitalizes on to serve its nuclear negotiations,” he said.


Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 
Updated 20 April 2021

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

RIYADH: The National Culture Awards Ceremony kicked off with a bang in Riyadh, honoring 32 Saudi cultural figures in 14 categories.

A part of the Quality of Life program of Vision 2030 the Ministry of Culture announced the first annual National Cultural Awards winners in a ceremony on Monday evening in the Cultural Palace of the Diplomatic Quarter.

Sponsored by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over 14 categories were awarded in cultural pioneering, youth cultural, cultural institutions, film, music, fashion, national heritage, literature, theater and performing arts, visual art, architecture and design, culinary arts, publishing, and translation.

In January 2020 the Ministry of Culture began the completion process and received over 15,000 submissions online and began deliberating the top submissions into October and chose the final winners in December.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed M. Fayez spoke on behalf of the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud in a speech addressing the ceremony stating, “ Culture, with its civilizational value, its social weight, and its effective developmental role today occupies the place it deserves. Thanks to the inspiring and ambitious national vision, the Saudi Vision 2030, which restored culture as a basic pillar in building society.  Anchored by the national identity and aspects of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Although the Minister of Culture was not in attendance he applauded the winners of the awards for their role in preserving and promoting the Kingdom's Culture stating, “ These intellectuals and creative minds are our cultural capital. With whom we will reach, with them and with their help, a cultural renaissance fitting the stature of our country.”

Dana Awartani one of the winners of the visual arts award from Jeddah, brings to life traditional geometry and historical themes in her art pieces.

“For me it is a huge honor first of all finally being recognized for the creative industry as a whole and all of the work that we do you know the past few years since the ministry has formed it has been completely different for us in getting support and recognition.”

“This is the first ever awards ceremony recognizing different arts which for me is a an honor to be a part of and it’s everything we have been working for, for the past my whole career has been summed up in today’s award and it is also great to see its  recognition from my own community, from my own country in a place where I grew up and where my art started,” Awartani shared with Arab News”.

Arwa Alammari a fashion pioneer of over 7 years and one of the winners of the fashion award shared her sentiments with Arab News stating,

“Being a part of such a cultural celebration of our heritage in such a way and it coming from my country means a lot to me, I have been working in this field for a very long time and I have been awarded internationally but when it comes from my country it means that we are all going toward the cultural changes that is going to be exported to the world.”

The awards ceremony concluded with a speech from the Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar in attendance on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. 

“There is no doubt that it is a very excellent and wonderful step.  That establishes a cultural approach for this country that affirms its high and sublime position in all forums.” 

Prince Bandar thanked the Crown Prince for sponsoring the awards, the Ministry of Culture, and members of the ministry for organizing the event, “I hope that we will all succeed on other occasions to come, so that we will be at a high level in all our events, as much as tonight.  I thank you and hope every year you are well. Peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.”

14 cultural awards winners:

  • The Cultural Pioneer of the Year Award: H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Nasser Alaboudy
  • Youth Cultural Award: Winning first place is Shahad Saeed Amin for her films including “Lady of the Sea” and “Scales” that Saudi Arabia’s film authority nominated for best international film in the Academy Awards.
  • Cultural Institutions Award: First place in the private sector track is King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), First place in the Non-Profit sector track is Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, and winning first place in the Social responsibility track is the Ketabi Lak Application.
  • Film Award: In first place is Shahad Saeed Amin
  • Fashion Award: In first place Lomar, in second place Yousef Mohammed Akbar,and in third place Arwa Abdullah Alammari
  • Music Award: In first place Zaina Emad Swelleh,in second place Akram Ibrahim Almattar, and in third place Reem Fahad Altamimi.
  • National Heritage Award: In first place Abdulaziz Abdullah Aldakheel, in second place Dr. Hisham Ali Mortada ,and in third place Torathuna Social Responsibility Company.
  • Literature Award: In first place is Abdulaziz Saleh Alsagabi, in second place Magbool Moussa Alalawi, and in third place Amal Saleh Alharbi.
  • Theater and Performing Arts Award: In first place Sami Abdullatif Algamaan and in second place Yasser Yahya Madkhli.
  • Visual Arts Award: in first place Lolowah Abdulrazzaq Alhomoud ,in second place Danah Abdulrahim Awratani, and in third place Ahmad Sami Angawi.
  • Architecture and Design Award: A winner was not selected as the submissions did not meet the requirements. 
  • Culinary Arts Award: In first place Rakan Ibrahim Aloraifi, in second place ZADK Culinary Academy, and in third place Norah Abdulwahab Albadran
  • Publishing Award: In first place was Obeikan Publishing and Translation, second place Kadi and Ramadi for Publishing and Distribution, and in third place Dar Athar for Publishing and Distribution.
  • Translation Award: In first place Abdallah Mohammed Idris, in second place Sultan Nasser Almujaiwel, and in third place Bander Mohammed Alharbi.

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries
Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.