Shoppers look to online orders amid coronavirus curfew

Nana Direct has tripled its capacity and plans to expand further due to the coronavirus curfew in Saudi Arabia. (Screengrab from nana.sa/en)
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Updated 30 March 2020

Shoppers look to online orders amid coronavirus curfew

  • Measures taken by the government to allow delivery apps to work during curfew hours have attracted new customers to the services
  • The Ministry of Commerce recommended purchasing groceries online and encouraged hypermarkets to provide exclusive online shopping promotions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s strong preventive measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has changed the purchasing behavior of consumers.

Measures taken by the government to allow delivery apps to work during curfew hours have attracted new customers to the services.

Hassan Al-Khalidi, a teacher from Al-Khobar, said that for the first time, he was able to order everything for his family from a hypermarket online.

“I used to go by myself for shopping, whether from the hypermarket or from the store next to my home, but after buying groceries online for the first time, I would say it was an excellent experience.”

Al-Khalidi added that he would continue the new habit after the crisis is over.

But due to high demand, not all hypermarkets are able to provide customers with quick deliveries. Some hypermarket apps are reporting lengthy delivery times. An Arab News staffer tested the service on the Danube hypermarket app, which informed him that it would take 10 days for goods to be delivered as curfew hours in Riyadh had been expanded. The delivery time before the curfew began was just one day.

But despite the COVID-19 measures and the risks of leaving home, a large portion of people prefer to go to hypermarkets in person for their shopping. Mohammed Alshammari from Riyadh said that shopping provides relief from the long stay at home and the “constant negativity of the news about coronavirus.”

He added: “I try to go shopping early in the morning when hypermarkets are less crowded, I take precautionary measures such as wearing a mask and gloves and keeping enough space from others.”

The Ministry of Commerce recently launched a campaign on social media urging people to shop in the early morning to avoid crowds. However, the ministry recommended purchasing groceries online and encouraged hypermarkets to provide exclusive online shopping promotions.

The ministry also instructed hypermarkets to limit the number of customers who can be inside at the same time.

An Arab News team visited a couple of hypermarkets in Riyadh, and noticed a high number of shoppers in the afternoon in comparison with the early morning hours. During rush hour (from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.) some stores were asking people to wait until other customers left before they could enter.

While the increase in the number of shoppers in hypermarkets is obvious, the Ministry of Commerce reassured customers that goods are stacked in several warehouses and that the food supply chain has never been affected by the curfew.


Saudi Arabia’s ‘Awdah’ initiative helps over 12,790 expats return home

Updated 04 June 2020

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Awdah’ initiative helps over 12,790 expats return home

  • Residents with exit and re-entry visas, final exit visas and individuals with visit visas are eligible for the service
  • People can register through the Absher platform

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s initiative Awdah helped 12,798 expatriates return home amid the coronavirus travel bans, state news agency SPA reported.
The program, which means return in Arabic, was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help stranded expats return to their home countries and received a total of 178,452 individual registrations between April 22 to June 3. Only those whose countries have agreed to receive them have been flown out.
Residents with exit and re-entry visas, final exit visas and individuals with visit visas are eligible for the service.
To register, a person must use the Absher platform to provide residency number, date of birth, phone number, city of departure and name of airport at home country, the report added.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Ministry of Human Resources and Development, the General Authority of Civil Aviation and other governmental organizations are working together to help stranded expats return home.