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.
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“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.