Saudi Arabia will ease COVID-19 lockdown from Thursday

Saudis shop at a supermarket at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on May 22, 2020, as Muslims prepare to celebrate the upcoming Eid al-Fitr, that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. (AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Saudi Arabia will ease COVID-19 lockdown from Thursday

  • Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said the easing will take place in phases
  • Al-Rabiah said the people of the Kingdom had shown a “high amount of responsibility"

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will enter a new phase of the coronavirus crisis this week, as the country takes the first tentative steps toward a return to normal life.

However, Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah stressed that for this gradual return to normality to succeed, everyone must follow all precautionary measures put in place by the authorities.

“As of Thursday, we will move from one phase to another according to a careful health assessment,” said Al-Rabiah. “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.

The minister thanked citizens and residents for their assistance in managing the crisis by adhering to regulations, and called on everyone to continue to wear masks that cover their noses and mouths when they are outside their homes.

Earlier, the Ministry of Health said that although there has some debate recently in scientific circles about how easy it is for the novel coronavirus to be transmitted by contact with surfaces contaminated by infected people, for example in droplets from the respiratory system when they cough or sneeze, there is as yet no definitive conclusion one way or the other and so caution is advised.


READ MORE: Saudi crown prince says COVID-19 will pass

Saudi Arabia reports 9 new COVID-19 deaths


“This theory cannot be excluded that surfaces are a means to transmit the virus,” said ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly. “Some specialized national centers say it is possible, others say it is not easy to spread through surfaces — but there is no research to refute it.”

A further 2,235 cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Saudi Arabia on Monday, taking the total number of infections in the country to 74,795.

There are 28,728 active cases in the Kingdom, 384 of which are described as critical. Al-Aly said an additional 2,148 patients have recovered, bringing the total number of recoveries to 45,668. Nine additional deaths were reported, in Makkah and Baish, raising the toll to 399. The deceased were all expatriates between the ages of 31 and 63.

A further 18,545 screening tests have been carried out, bringing the total number to 722,079.

Saudi Arabia calls for international action over decaying Red Sea oil tanker

Updated 16 July 2020

Saudi Arabia calls for international action over decaying Red Sea oil tanker

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has called for strong and decisive international efforts to deal with the global threats posed by a decaying oil tanker moored off Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

During a virtual meeting on Wednesday of the UN Security Council to discuss the stranded FSO Safer vessel, which is loaded with more than 1 million barrels of crude oil, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, highlighted the “grave risks” the ship presented.

The 45-year-old tanker has been anchored about 60 km north of Hodeidah since the start of Yemen’s civil war five years ago. Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed on Sunday to allow a UN inspection team access to the ship for a maintenance check.

Al-Mouallimi said: “I would like to express our appreciation for convening this session to discuss the hazardous situation of the tanker and the dangers it is posing to the environment and maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

“The grave risks associated with this floating oil tanker threaten to cause harm to the Southern Red Sea and to the world at large as it is situated in the proximity of Bab Al-Mandab (Strait), through which vital international maritime navigation passes through between Asia and Europe.

“This dangerous situation must not be left unaddressed, and the Security Council bears primary responsibility for securing the safety and security of the area,” he added.

The envoy told delegates that an oil spill from the FSO Safer could have the potential to be worse than the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

He pointed out that loss of oil from the ship could also result in the closing of the port of Hodeidah for months, leading to severe shortages in the supply of fuel and other essentials to the people of Yemen, and severe long-term damage to the region’s fishing industry.

Marine life, the environment, and Saudi shores would also be seriously and adversely affected, he added, and toxic gases and black clouds from any major spillage would damage agricultural land in vast areas of Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

“The Security Council has already asserted the need to confront the risks associated with this situation and warned against the catastrophic consequences that would result if this situation remains unresolved. The Security Council did so in its resolution 2511 (2020) and its press statement issued on June 29, 2020,” said Al-Mouallimi.

“We took notice of the announcement made recently by the spokesperson of the UN secretary-general that the Houthi rebels have agreed to allow access to the tanker.

“We remain suspicious of the Houthis plans and intentions, and request that the Security Council must remain vigilante and should stand ready to declare strong and decisive measures to deal with this situation and eliminate the risks posed by it.”

The ambassador said that the Kingdom stood ready to take all necessary steps that the Security Council may deem fit to handle the situation.

“The council must not allow such reckless and irresponsible behavior to stand. The council must ensure that a political solution for the conflict in Yemen is found based on UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the GCC initiative, and the outcome of the National Dialogue Conference, acknowledged by the international community as the elements of international legitimacy.”