US ambassador to Saudi Arabia advises American community to shelter in the Kingdom during coronavirus

Abizaid said the Kingdom’s preventive measures had been “ahead of the problem." (Reuters/File)
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Updated 03 April 2020

US ambassador to Saudi Arabia advises American community to shelter in the Kingdom during coronavirus

  • John Abizaid published video message addressed to the American community
  • He says food supplies, health care and emergency services are all good in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The US ambassador to Riyadh advised the American community in Saudi Arabia to “shelter in place,” instead of returning to the US amid the present crisis.

“Food supply is good, emergency services are sound, medical system is functioning,” said the US envoy John Abizaid on a video message addressed towards the American community.

He advised those who are adamant on returning to research and study the local situation as communities have been disrupted and many quarantine areas have sprung up.



“It’s very concerning to see how things are going there (in the US), but on the other hand I’ve got great confidence in our ability to weather the storm, not only there but here.”

He hailed the efforts made by the Kingdom to protect against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and said: “They took action early, they stopped the movement of people into the Kingdom, they shut down the air corridors, land corridors, you name it. Of course it makes us all feel isolated, but on the other hand it is also clear to me that it makes us safer.”

Abizaid described the Kingdom’s preventive measures as “ahead of the problem,” but that did not mean the situation could not spiral for the worst.

“There are about over 1,500 cases in the Kingdom right now and it is continuing to rise, but not at a rate like we’ve seen in the States or Italy or Spain or elsewhere.”

The ambassador and everyone at the embassy are social-distancing and working electronically. He said that none of the embassy staff had COVID-19.

He has reassured Americans that the embassy has a Center For Disease Control representative who has been talking to Saudis and the health ministry, saying that the Kingdom is doing a good job.

“My relationship with the Saudi security services has been exceptional,” he said, adding: “Good cooperation, we all have the same goal in mind, which is to keep the virus from spreading, to ensure that our medical professionals in the Kingdom can practice without being overcrowded or overworked.”

Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

Updated 18 min 46 sec ago

Home alone: Saudis and expats try to beat the holiday blues

  • People celebrating Eid alone or abroad find ways to stay positive

JEDDAH: For different reasons many people living in the Kingdom have found themselves alone for the holidays due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, their spirits dampened as they are forced to stay home alone, away from loved ones.

As the pandemic enters its third month in Saudi Arabia, flights have not yet resumed, strict social distancing and safety measures are still in place and curfews have been reimposed to curb the spread of the virus during the Eid holidays.

Many families are stranded in cities across the Kingdom, while Saudis studying and working abroad are either stuck or have chosen to spend summer where they are out of fear they will not be able to return and start their new semesters.

Some people were able to move in with their families and quarantine together, while others were deprived of that chance.

A number of Saudi nationals, including students, have been repatriated in the past couple of weeks while others are still waiting for their turn.

Yousef Al-Ayesh, a 21-year-old senior student at Arizona State University, has been at home since late March as a precautionary measure.

He said that Eid with his family in Jeddah was one event that everyone looked forward to all year long. Under normal circumstances the first three days of Eid would be filled with events — family dinners at night and beach excursions during the day. Although he would be sleep-deprived, he would still make the most of the little time he spent with his family due to his studies.

“With all that’s going on, it doesn’t even feel like it’s Eid,” he told Arab News. 

“It most probably would have been different if I was back in Saudi Arabia but I still wouldn’t have been able to celebrate it the same way. It’s not that bad here (in the US) now since restaurants have reopened and my friends and I have the outdoors to enjoy, have a barbecue, or just hang out. I would have felt worse if I was alone. Ramadan was already odd enough, I don’t think I would have been OK if it were the case without them.”

Although his family lives 8,000 miles away he did not feel alone as his group of friends decided to celebrate together, even without the perks of new clothes and eidiyas from aunts and uncles.

It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed

Al-Ayesh hoped to be repatriated to the Kingdom soon and spend some time with his family after his mandatory quarantine.

Fareed Abdullah Fareed, a 29-year-old expat working and living in Riyadh, said this year’s Eid was tough without his family.

Although he is used to living alone because of his job, Eid was the one occasion he looked forward to the most every year because he got to travel to Cairo and be with his family.

“My family moved from Jeddah to Cairo about four or five years ago and Eid is a significant occasion in the family, Eid Al-Fitr is significantly more special than Eid Al-Adha even,” he told Arab News. “I look forward to traveling to see them every year since moving to Riyadh but wasn’t able to with the lockdown, so we all got together on FaceTime video call and spent the whole day speaking to family members.”

Like many expats, Fareed has spent the past months at home and said it was hard for him and his family but that communication had made the ordeal slightly easier.

“It’s an exceptional year for us and one that is teaching us a lesson on various levels, but we must adapt either way,” he added.