JEDDAH: After more than two months in lockdown, families and children in Saudi Arabia are enjoying a return to normal activities as coronavirus restrictions are eased around the Kingdom.
But while some parents have lingering worries about their children’s health, for youngsters it is a different story.
Eight-year-old Sara Issam, of Makkah, told Arab News that she was excited to finally visit a nearby mini-market with her elder brother as she used to do every Eid. “I had to wear a face mask and be careful where I put my hands, but I was happy to buy all those sweets using my Eidiyah (money gifted to children in Eid),” she told Arab News.
From Sunday, children under 15 will be allowed entry to public areas, such as malls, restaurants and cafes.
However, entertainment centers and children’s play areas, as well as cinemas, will remain closed until June 20.
I want to go to the playground, the park, the toyshop and to play with my friends. I also want to go traveling.
As the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions gets underway, people are cautiously getting back to familiar vacation routines, such as shopping, barbecues by the sea or in parks, exchanging family visits, traveling around the Kingdom and desert camping.
With children now allowed on family outings, some parents worry about safety, saying it will be difficult to keep them in quarantine if they fall ill.
However, three-year-old Yahya told Arab News that he was “sad to be kept at home” because of coronavirus and there are many places he missed.
“I want to go to the playground, the park, the toyshop and to play with my friends. I also want to go traveling,” he said.
Yahya’s mother, Rawan Najjar, from Jeddah, said: “I intend to take him out but with proper precautions and as long as I know that he understands what is going on.” Other families say that as long as the current phase is experimental and under constant review, they will stay home.
For nine-year-old Ayham, from Jeddah, quarantine has been a happy experience.
“We played games together as a family, I also learned English and French on a mobile app, I fasted for the first time in Ramadan and learned to read the Qur’an,” he said.
“I also read the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ books, and another Arabic book, and chatted and studied with my friends through videoconferencing. But I missed swimming in the sea, going to the supermarket to buy food for the house and shopping for books.” Ayham’s mother, Haneen Maher, said that she is reluctant to take her children out.
As a mother, I fear for my children’s safety and worry about taking them to public places.
“I don’t think we should get too excited with easing the restrictions. As a mother, I fear for my children’s safety and worry about taking them to public places,” she told Arab News. Maher said that she would take her children out for fresh air, but only inside the family car.
“We went to Jeddah Corniche and to a public park with our snacks, but the children were not allowed to get out of the car. I know they want their freedom back,
but they understand the situation,” she said.
Musab Allan agrees, allowing his children out only in the early morning “in addition to visits to grandparents twice a month.”
Families with common or chronic health issues such as asthma are also cautious about leaving the house amid the pandemic.
Salma, 23, said: “I can see how bored my younger siblings are, but my mother insists nobody leave the house until coronavirus is no longer there. As a family with weak immune system history, this is the best option for us.”
Other parents looked for different options, avoiding closed areas such as malls and restaurants and, instead, visiting open spaces such as the Corniche and other natural locations.