Saudi Arabia was very quick in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was one of the first countries to isolate itself following a rise in the number of infections around the world.
The Kingdom reported the first case of COVID-19 on March 2, 2020. Since then the Saudi authorities have been working overtime to ensure public safety. The number of confirmed cases and other details such as recoveries are issued daily. Several healthcare services were introduced using the latest technology to effectively fight the pandemic.
Saudi Arabia then made an honorable decision by waiving all penalties for people who overstayed their visas due to the suspension of flights, and jail terms of those convicted in debt-related cases. The Kingdom also ordered the suspension of deportation and arrests for expatriates with an illegal immigration status provided they came forward voluntarily to get tested for COVID-19 if they had been in an area reporting infections. This humanitarian move helped to curb the spread of the disease.
Following that, the Saudi officials announced that everyone in the Kingdom would be provided with free testing and hospitalization facilities at public or private facilities. This was done without any discrimination between citizens or expatriates or bias based on religion, gender, age group and legal status. Everyone was treated equally and fairly.
In a televised speech on March 19, 2020, King Salman vowed to take all precautionary measures to fight the pandemic and said “human life will always be the first priority of the Kingdom.”
While countries started to close their borders, leaving people stranded from their countries and health systems started to crumble globally, the Saudi government took all measures to strengthen its response to the health crisis.
Several healthcare services were introduced using the latest technology to effectively fight the pandemic.
Abdullah H. Alghuwaynim
This was done by effectively providing for all the financial and logistical needs. It is a matter of great pride how the Saudi government guaranteed the health, security and safe return of its citizens abroad by laying out evacuation plans including free accommodations, transportations, medications and flights.
More than a year has passed since the first case of the virus was confirmed in the Kingdom. Despite the challenges encountered both locally and globally, Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of the mastermind and architect of Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, held the first-of-its-kind presidency of the G20 forum virtually, hosted the Future Investment Initiative, announced The Line project and more.
Today, Saudi Arabia has expanded its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and made it free for its citizens and residents. I personally scheduled my vaccination to take my first dose and I must say that the appointment process was exceptionally smooth. On the day of my appointment, I arrived at the chosen vaccination center in Riyadh and was amazed by the organization I witnessed. The full procedure of the vaccination took exactly 24 minutes from arrival to departure.
First, I arrived at the center, showed my virtual ID via Tawakkalna app and my appointment confirmation on Sehhaty App. Then, I followed a queue to a booth to get my ticket. After that, I followed the color-coded line matching the ticket number given. As soon as I got to the end of the colored line, I was welcomed with a smile by the staff and guided to a private room. Shortly, I found myself with a health professional inquiring about my medical conditions to check my eligibility for the vaccine. This was done as an extra precaution as I had already been screened during the appointment booking process. In the blink of an eye, I was delicately given the first dose. The procedure was pain-free and incredibly smooth.
Later, I was guided to a waiting room to relax for 15 minutes as a precaution before I was allowed to leave. Finally, I was out of the center, not only relieved and safe and sound but also ready for my second dose.
All I would say is that words will never be enough to praise this great country and its leaders.
All I could say is that I am extremely proud to call myself a Saudi. Well done, Saudi Arabia!
• Abdullah H. Alghuwaynim is a senior project manager at one of Vision 2030 Realization Offices.