Number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia could hit 200,000, says health minister

The number of COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia could reach up to 200,000 within a few weeks, according to the Kingdom’s health minister. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia could hit 200,000, says health minister

  • Minister added it was vital the public cooperated with the government’s instructions and precautionary measures

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia expects COVID-19 cases to increase by a range of between 10,000 to 200,000 maximum, and has allocated an additional SR7 billion ($1.86 billion) to its healthcare budget. 

“According to the results of four different studies conducted by Saudi and international epidemiology specialists, numbers of cases in the coming few weeks are expected to increase by 10,000 at a minimum, and to 200,000 maximum,” Saudi Minister of Health Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said in a speech delivered on Tuesday. 

He also said that if the current increase was maintained during the next four to 12 months, that he would guarantee the ministry’s readiness to deal with the virus with the highest standards and without overwhelming the health sector.

The minister stressed that all the proactive, strict precautionary measures taken by the government to eliminate the spread of the virus would reduce contact among people by 90 percent, and that the next period primarily depended on public cooperation and their commitment to authorities’ directives.

“Allow me to speak to you with full transparency, though it might be painful,” A-Rabiah said. “Unfortunately, some members of society did not take the epidemic severity seriously, nor did they adhere to the authorities’ instructions to avoid gatherings, as we have seen in the past days … which indicate that we need more measures to protect society.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman directed an increase of the healthcare budget to SR15 billion on Monday, after a virtual meeting with health officials. 

The budget will raise the health sector’s readiness and secure medications, additional beds and health supplies, such as artificial respirators, testing devices and sample kits.

The ministry has submitted requests estimated at SR32 billion more until the end of the current fiscal year, which have also been approved.

However, Al-Rabiah noted that despite the unlimited support from the state, the health sector faced two problems; a lack of supply of medical devices in global markets and lack of commitment by many people to the precautionary measures. 

The speech, aired on different official media platforms, came a day after the authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew in five Saudi cities and governorates including the capital Riyadh.

Al-Rabiah noted that the 24-hour curfew decree was implemented in line with the health ministry’s recommendations in an effort to reduce people’s movement and gatherings to the absolute minimum. 

“Studies in the past few days have indicated that the traffic rate in the country is still at 46 percent, which is a very high percentage and does not help to achieve the required goal.”

He noted that Saudi society was at a critical moment, and that a sense of responsibility was crucial to help overcome the current crisis.

The minister said that the expectations for the next few days did not indicate any decrease in the number of cases.

Dr. Feras Naji Al-Bluwi of Al-Hamra Primary Healthcare Center in Riyadh said that people should remain home. 

“Nothing can prevent you from infection except staying at your home,” he told Arab News, adding: “Leaving home should be limited to very basic needs like food and medication.

“It is about decreasing infection risks to the individual. We don’t want people to get paranoid, but they have to be careful.” 

He stressed that the current measures were to protect the health system from collapsing, but most people were treating the current period as a “vacation”. 

“The new restrictions, including 24-hour curfew, are to decrease the number of cases so the health system can deal with them properly,” he said. “Cases are increasing because people did not stop gathering and going out for unnecessary reasons as if they were on a vacation.”

Al-Bluwi gave tips on how individuals could contribute to eliminating the spread of the virus: “Stay home, maintain your personal hygiene, sanitize or clean whatever you bring home from outside. Water and soap is enough — get rid of any disposables like plastic bags, use delivery apps and pay electronically or by wifi to avoid any contact with others.”

He noted that no one could anticipate when they might catch the virus or transmit it to anyone else.

“Many people say it isn’t a dangerous virus. It actually is — it is highly contagious, unlike regular flu, and no one should take it less seriously even if they think they have a strong immune system,” he added.

KSRelief-backed Al-Amal Arsal Center continues to provide medical services to Syrian refugees

Updated 07 June 2020

KSRelief-backed Al-Amal Arsal Center continues to provide medical services to Syrian refugees

ARSAL, Lebanon:  The Al-Amal Medical Center in Lebanon’s Bekaa governorate continued to provide medical services to Syrian refugees with the support of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).

It is part of a project to strengthen health services for Syrian refugees and the host community in the town of Arsal.

In May, 4,575 patients visited the clinics and received 8,123 free health services across specialized departments, in addition to receiving help from laboratory, pharmacy and nursing services.

General health clinics received 396 patients, eye clinics had 506 patients, the emergency department 595 patients, dental clinics 325 patients, pediatric clinics saw 347 patients, with 125 vaccinations provided.

ENT clinics received 412 patients, orthopedic clinics 311 patients, heart clinics had 240 patients, urology clinics 472 patients, gastroenterology clinics 180 patients, gynecological clinics 271 patients, gland and diabetes clinics 65 patients, and psychiatric clinics 68 patients.

The Al-Amal Medical Center is following the necessary procedures and precautions in light of the coronavirus pandemic to provide services to patients in a safe medical environment.

Awareness campaigns were carried out to familiarize people with precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, and they were provided with items for personal hygiene.

The medical director of the project, Dr. Tariq Shandab, said that the center aimed to serve more than 45,000 people and provide them with healthcare in a variety of fields, in addition to having an emergency department that worked around the clock and an integrated pharmacy to provide free medicine to all patients.

Shandab expressed his gratitude for the humanitarian services provided by Saudi Arabia, represented by KSRelief, to the Syrian refugees and their host community.