Saudi Arabia introduces incentives to help Hajj, Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia introduces incentives to help Hajj, Umrah businesses
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Updated 10 March 2021

Saudi Arabia introduces incentives to help Hajj, Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia introduces incentives to help Hajj, Umrah businesses
  • Residential renewal fees for expat workers employed in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be delayed for six months

JEDDAH: King Salman has approved a series of new initiatives and incentives to help businesses involved in the annual Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages recover from the financial impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, six specific initiatives were given royal approval.

Businesses offering accommodation facilities in Makkah and Madinah will be exempt from annual municipal fees for a year.

Companies involved in Hajj and Umrah will be exempt from having to pay fees for employing expats for six months.

The renewal of licenses for accommodation facilities in Makkah and Madinah will now be done free of charge by the Ministry of Tourism, for a period of one year, but may be extended.

Residential renewal fees for expat workers employed in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be delayed for six months, and the amounts can instead be paid in instalments over 12 months.

Bus operators will be able to extend their licenses to transport pilgrims free of charge and, lastly, custom duties on new buses will be delayed for three months and can instead be paid in installments over a period of four months starting from the due date.

The latest initiatives are part of more than 150 schemes, worth SR180 billion ($48 billion), launched by the Saudi government to reduce the impact the pandemic has had on businesses, the private sector, and investors.

Saudi authorities said recently that no COVID-19 cases had been recorded among pilgrims and worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah since the start of the pandemic last year.

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said this could be attributed to the precautionary measures that had been put in place and enhanced as the health crisis progressed.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten said, as of February, his ministry had facilitated Umrah for more than 100,000 pilgrims in Madinah and at least 600,000 in Makkah, despite the virus outbreak and the temporary closure of both mosques.


Saudi Arabia's crown prince receives call from Qatar emir

Saudi Arabia's crown prince receives call from Qatar emir
Updated 4 min 36 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's crown prince receives call from Qatar emir

Saudi Arabia's crown prince receives call from Qatar emir

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.
During the call, Sheikh Tamim congratulated the crown prince on the advent of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Prince Mohammed also exchanged well wishes on the occasion.


Saudi Arabia confirms 8 COVID-19 deaths, 951 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 8 COVID-19 deaths, 951 new cases
Updated 13 April 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 8 COVID-19 deaths, 951 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 8 COVID-19 deaths, 951 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 608 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 389

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded eight new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,773.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 951 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 400,228 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 8,820 remain active and 962 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 389, followed by Makkah with 212, the Eastern Province with 144, Asir recorded 38 and Madinah confirmed 32 cases.

The ministry also announced that 608 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 361,813.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 137 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 2.95 million.


Saudia Airlines to trial IATA travel pass on flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah

Saudia Airlines to trial IATA travel pass on flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah
Updated 13 April 2021

Saudia Airlines to trial IATA travel pass on flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah

Saudia Airlines to trial IATA travel pass on flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah
  • The trial will begin on April 19 and will continue until mid May
  • It will allow travelers to create digital passports to ensure all government health requirements are met

JEDDAH: Saudia Airlines announced on Monday that it will trial the digital travel and health pass developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It will start on April 19 on the Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah route.
The pass is a mobile app that helps passengers to simply and securely manage their travel information and documents, and comply with any official precautionary requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to flight details and personal information, including passport data, the app can also store verified COVID-19 test results and proof of vaccination. It also includes an option to securely share required information with testing labs or airlines.
According to IATA, users need not worry about the security of their data as it remains confidential and is stored in an encrypted form locally, on the phone. If app is deleted, so is all of the user’s data that is stored in it.
The aim is to help ensure passengers have a safe and seamless travel experience, as part of the efforts to ensure a safe return to international travel and support the recovery of the aviation sector from the effects of the pandemic. During the trial and testing process, IATA will work to develop the app for use across the airline’s network.
“This is great news. I hope it gets approved and applied to all international flights,” Abdullah Al-Muhsin, form Riyadh, told Arab News.
“As a vaccinated individual, this will make it much easier for me to prove my immunity. This step … invites people to get vaccinated and also ensures health requirements are met.”
Turki Khalaf, also from Riyadh, told Arab News: “Anything that would make life easier and reduces costs is good.
“I hope that the next step is our travel pass becomes vital too, and we become free of the anxiety every time we go to the airport, fearing that little note might get lost, stolen or damaged.”
The trial will continue until May 17. Travelers are encouraged to use the app but it is not a requirement. During the trial period passengers must still carry traditional documentation, printed or in digital form, that shows the result of a PCR test by an authorized clinic, as immigration and health authorities might require it. In addition, the travel pass does not replace existing travel or entry requirements in Saudi Arabia, including possession of a valid passport and visa, if applicable. Visit www.saudia.com/travel-pass for more information.


Saudi female elected first president of Digital Cooperation Organization

Saudi female elected first president of Digital Cooperation Organization
KSA’s Deema Alyahya is the first secretary-general of DCO. (SPA)
Updated 13 April 2021

Saudi female elected first president of Digital Cooperation Organization

Saudi female elected first president of Digital Cooperation Organization
  • It is estimated that by 2025 the global digital economy will be worth $23 trillion with a GDP share of 24.3 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was elected president of the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) and Saudi national Deemah Alyahya was appointed the first secretary-general of the organization during its first meeting on Monday.
The organization also approved the accession of Nigeria and Oman to the organization as founding members.
The first five members of DCO included Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan.
The seven member states constitute an economic bloc worth $2 trillion of the global gross domestic product.
The first meeting was chaired by Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha. Houlin Zhao, secretary-general of the International Communication Union, GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf, World Economic Forum President Borge Brende and representatives of different UN programs also attended the meeting.
The meeting approved several initiatives including establishment of a center to boost coordination on transfer of data, women’s empowerment and promotion of small and medium enterprises with a focus on digital transformation.
The DCO aims to strengthen collaboration among member nations as they adapt to a global economy increasingly defined by technological innovation.
Through this initiative, the member states could establish solid cooperation in the emerging fields of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, IoT, big data, 5G, cloud computing, and blockchain.
It is estimated that by 2025 the global digital economy will be worth $23 trillion with a GDP share of 24.3 percent. This provides the DCO with a great opportunity to build a platform for their tech-savvy youth, women, entrepreneurs, and indigenous industry to flourish and compete with their global contemporaries and boost their digital competitiveness.
In addition, member states can harness their expertise and share experience to strengthen efforts for preparing for global crises such as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.


Madinah to get family medicine academy

Madinah to get family medicine academy
Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman. (SPA)
Updated 13 April 2021

Madinah to get family medicine academy

Madinah to get family medicine academy
  • Top quality healthcare forms an important part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program

MADINAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman on Monday oversaw the signing ceremony of an agreement between the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties and the Madinah Health Community for the establishment of the Academy of Postgraduate Studies for Family Medicine.
The academy aims to expand the specialization program in family medicine in line with the goals of the government to modernize the healthcare system in the Kingdom and to ensure the best facilities for citizens.
Top quality healthcare forms an important part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program.
The academy will ensure the quality of the program by forging a partnership with the Irish College of General Practitioners.
Initially 40 seats will be available at the academy. The capacity will be increases by 25 percent annually to reach 80 per year.
The academy will follow strict criteria for the evaluation of its doctors in coordination with local and international partners and take measures to boost the skills of the academy’s graduates as per the international standards.