Basic food, product supplies safe for ‘long time’: Saudi ministry

Authorities have taken all precautionary measures to ensure compliance with safety guidelines to ensure public health safety. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Basic food, product supplies safe for ‘long time’: Saudi ministry

  • Stores were requesting customers to use hand sanitizers and gloves before entering, and some shoppers looked to overbuying food, but otherwise outlets appeared to be operating almost normally

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will be able to maintain supplies of basic food items and goods for “a long time” to come despite rumors to the contrary, government officials announced on Monday.
According to the Saudi Ministry of Commerce, stock levels in the Kingdom remained high and millions of masks and sterilizers to protect people against the coronavirus were being produced locally.
“The Kingdom has a huge stock of foodstuffs and basic commodities, including rice and flour, and it is sufficient to meet the local need for a long time,” a ministry spokesperson told Arab News, adding that citizens should “not be led by rumors.” And government inspection teams have estimated that the number of masks and sterilizers being produced is running at “millions monthly.”
The ministry has so far carried out more than 27 control and inspection tours of shops and food supply outlets in all regions of the Kingdom. Special teams equipped with the latest price-monitoring technology, were also conducting daily checks on the cost of basic food items and other important commodities.
Any individuals or organizations found to be making unjustified price hikes or attempting to disrupt or monopolize supply chains would face “the most severe penalties,” the ministry warned. These included large fines, facility closures, the withdrawal of commercial registration, and the destruction or confiscation of seized goods.
An Arab News team stock check of hypermarkets and retail shops in Riyadh revealed shelves to be almost fully stacked. Stores were requesting customers to use hand sanitizers and gloves before entering, and some shoppers looked to overbuying food, but otherwise outlets appeared to be operating almost normally.
Faisal Al-Abdulkarim, a social media influencer, posted a video interview on Twitter with Mohammed Al-Osaimi, one of the biggest rice importers in the Kingdom.
Al-Osaima reassured Saudis that there were no food shortages and urged them not to panic buy as some unscrupulous traders would use the rise in demand as an excuse to up prices.
Standing next to tons of stacked rice in one of his warehouses, he said: “Don’t run behind the rumors that say this or that product is going to run out (of stock). The warehouses are full. I’m one of the big food traders, and I want to say everything is fine. The prices are going to head down.” In his address to the nation on Thursday, King Salman also gave assurances over medicine and food supplies.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Commerce Ministry has so far carried out more than 27 control and inspection tours of shops and food supply outlets in all regions of the Kingdom. Special teams equipped with the latest price-monitoring technology, were also conducting daily checks on the cost of basic food items and other important commodities.

• The ministry posted a series of videos on its Twitter account showing factories continuing to mass produce dairy, bakery and face mask products. Saudi dairy producers said on Monday that supplies and prices of essential products would continue at normal levels.

And the Ministry of Commerce posted a series of videos on its Twitter account showing factories continuing to mass produce dairy, bakery and face mask products.
Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi said in a tweet last week that the ministry would “hit with an iron hand and firmly punish” anyone who tried to exploit the situation by manipulating or affecting prices.
Meanwhile, Saudi dairy producers said on Monday that supplies and prices of essential products would continue at normal levels. “We are committed to providing dairy products at the same price.”
In a statement, the Council of Saudi Chambers’ National Committee for Fresh Dairy Producers, told Arab News: “In the framework of the preventive and precautionary efforts made by government agencies to protect citizens and residents from the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the national dairy companies, in line with these measures, are fully committed to ensuring and sustaining safe and adequate healthy food to the consumer in high quality on a daily basis.
“It is reviewing the stock in the market every day and working to increase it continuously in order to ensure the supply of food products from fresh milk and its derivatives with its various options for the consumer.”
The committee clarified that, in cooperation with relevant government agencies, it had taken all preventive and precautionary measures to ensure compliance with health and safety guidelines at all stages of production, manufacturing, supply and distribution to reach more than 38,000 outlets throughout the Kingdom.
Housewife Iffat Aabroo said: “It is highly appreciated that the dairy committee is taking all necessary steps to ensure regular supplies of dairy essentials at the same prices as before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“My in-laws back home in India told me that as soon as the Bihar (state) government announced a lockdown, sellers started charging exorbitant prices on essentials.”
Sikander Jahan, another Riyadh housewife, told Arab News that the committee’s move showed “how much the government is concerned about the wellbeing of the citizens and residents at this time of pandemic.”

 


Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Updated 50 min 11 sec ago

Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Curfew to be eased on Sunday, except in Makkah, as domestic travel permitted
  • All curfews in Saudi Arabia to be lifted by June 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced the easing of restrictions that has halted much of the activity in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday 31, May, the curfew on all areas of the Kingdom will be eased, except Makkah. Movement in cities and within the regions of the country will again be permitted, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The easing will mean the Kingdom’s 24-hour lockdown is relaxed with a curfew from 3 p.m to 6 a.m until Sunday, after which the hours will change to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Makkah will remain under a full 24-hour lockdown.

On June 21, all curfews in the Kingdom will be lifted and prayers at Makkah’s mosque will be permitted.

Before then, social distancing guidelines must continue to be adhered to and gatherings of more than 50 people will continue to be banned.

Authorities have also allowed the attendance at ministries, government agencies and private sector companies, and the return of their office activities.

Some economic and commercial activities will also be allowed to take place including those at wholesale and retail shops, as well as malls. Cafes will be permitted to operate once more.

However, all job sectors where social distancing rules are harder to achieve such as beauty salons, barbershops, sports and health clubs, recreational centers and cinemas will remain closed.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights will continue to be suspended until further notice.

The new rules are subject to constant evaluation at the health ministry and can be changed if the situation warrants it.

Earlier, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the health minister, said: “The phases start gradually until we return to normalcy, with its new concept based on social distancing.” 

He added that the precautionary steps taken by the Kingdom early in the outbreak helped to limit the spread of the virus. 

Now, he said, the ministry has developed a plan for the next phase that relies on two main factors: The capacity of the health care system to cope with critical cases, and the expansion of testing to identify new infections as soon as possible.

Reassuring the Saudi nation on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The bad conditions will pass, God willing, and we are heading toward the good, God willing.” 

The Kingdom recorded 2,235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total to 74,795, and the death toll rose by nine to 399. Worldwide the virus has infected more than 5.5 million people and killed nearly 350,000.