JEDDAH: With a few days to go before the start of Ramadan, Saudi health authorities are warning the Kingdom’s residents to remain vigilant and stick to safety precautions put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
During a press conference on Sunday, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly reminded residents of the importance of following the precautions.
“Last year’s Ramadan was unlike any other Ramadan that we have experienced,” he said, adding that visitors to mosques would need to follow set guidelines, such as bringing their own prayer mats, attending prayer on time, socially distancing and staying clear of overcrowding.
He also highlighted the importance of following precautions during family gatherings. “We are used to family gatherings during Ramadan — they are special and bring the family together — but we must limit the number of visitors in gatherings.”
On Saturday, the MoH announced it would be postponing second doses of COVID-19 vaccines in order to ensure more people receive their first dose.
“The challenges are a race against time. We want to ensure that the most vulnerable are prioritized and receive their first vaccine to gain immunity,” Al-Abd Al-Aly said, adding that cancelled slots would be rearranged automatically.
“The second dose acts as a booster to the immunity one develops after the first dose,” he said.
398,435 Total cases
8,360 Active cases
A total of 799 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Kingdom on Sunday, meaning 398,435 people in Saudi Arabia have now contracted the disease.
There are 8,360 active cases, 915 of them are critical.
In addition, 548 new recovered cases were announced, taking the total number of recoveries to 383,321. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Seven new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 6,754.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 6.25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. A total of 58,897 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 15,797,442.
Elsewhere, 30,054 violations of precautionary and preventive measures were reported over the past week. The highest numbers of violations were in Riyadh (11,162), Makkah (5,883), and the Eastern Province (4,183). Jazan (155) and Najran (132) had the lowest number of reported violations.
The Ministry of Interior stressed that citizens and residents must continue to adhere to the preventive measures and instructions issued by the authorities for their own safety and the safety of fellow citizens and residents.
Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda during Khan’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy
Updated 13 sec ago
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.
With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.
“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.
“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”
Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.
At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.
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Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.
Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.
Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019.
During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing.
Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.
He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.
Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.
“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”
Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.
In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.
“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”
The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.
“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.
“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.
Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway
Al-Qassar village becomes a top destination for those seeking moderate climates and potable water
Updated 8 min 26 sec ago
MAKKAH: The village of Al-Qassar — located 5 kilometers away from the Farasan governorate — has long been a hub for the people of the Farasan Islands who are always in connection with the place.
This is especially noticeable during summer, when people migrate to the village to escape from the heat.
For more than 50 years, Al-Qassar’s historic homes have witnessed vibrant ceremonies, as their walls were built with stones, roofed from palm tree fronds, and adorned with seashells and beautiful Arabic inscriptions.
Saudi historian and poet Ibrahim Moftah said that Al-Qassar is one of the first villages that was inhabited in the Arabian Peninsula hundreds of years ago. The village enjoys moderate weather, is covered with palm trees, and is full of fresh wells and rich in history and events, he added.
“Farasan was a deserted island on all levels and the love of change is in the nature of Jizani people, so they used to go to Al-Qassar for change,” he told Arab News.
He said that at the beginning of the month of April, the village becomes a top destination for those seeking moderate climates and potable water. “Water in Al-Qassar can be found at a depth of six meters, whereas it can only be found in Farasan at a depth of 23 meters.”
Previously, most travel and trips to Al-Qassar village were during what Farasani people call the “Shaddah” season, where families ride camels to travel.
People of Farasan would postpone their wedding ceremonies in order to travel to Al-Qassar in summer, where the weather is cool during the Shaddah season.
Those trips to the village were done in two phases: One morning trip for a bride, who rides a camel carrying water and boxes with accompanying music, and another second trip during the afternoon for families.
“The Farasan people used to celebrate new brides in Al-Qassar in a unique way, especially if the bride was in the first year of her marriage, amid the chants and songs of joy,” said Moftah. “A calm and trained camel is chosen, then they decorate the camels with beads, pearls and silk, and copper bells that are fixed to its ankles to make sounds as it walks.”
• For more than 50 years, Al-Qassar’s historic homes have witnessed vibrant ceremonies, as their walls were built with stones, roofed from palm tree fronds, and adorned with seashells and beautiful Arabic inscriptions.
• Previously, most travel and trips to Al-Qassar village were during what Farasani people call the ‘Shaddah’ season, where families ride camels to travel.
• People of Farasan would postpone their wedding ceremonies in order to travel to Al-Qassar in summer, where the weather is cool during the Shaddah season.
Moftah said that before a bride’s trip to Al-Qassar, “young women gather at the bride’s house and start singing, then they start their trip with the bride in the forefront. The camels would also be carrying wooden boxes that used to arrive from Aden and are made in India, loaded with expensive clothes and perfumes. The bridesmaid accompanies the bride, and she is usually of a similar weight. Men and women would stand on the sides to wave goodbye to the bride’s procession.”
The bride is then received in Al-Qassar with jugs of water and chants.
However, Moftah said that “nowadays, there are no more camels in Farasan” and that “life has changed and these traditions ended 50 years ago,” as cars, modern homes and air-conditioners have become common and Al-Qassar is no longer an escape or a shelter for anyone, now only home to “deserted houses and souvenirs.”
According to the Saudi historian, official festivals and a surge in tourism “was not fair” to the history of Al-Qassar village, as older traditions were not properly represented. “The region has lost one of the most beautiful cultural traditions.”
Saudi tourist guide Yahya Abbas said that Al-Qassar village consists of old buildings and is located in the south of Farasan Island, and includes almost 400 houses fixed with tree fronds, small stones and sand “to prevent water leaks.”
He added: “The history of this village dates back to the Roman era, and there are writings and drawings dating back to the Himyarite era.
“The village is considered the largest palm oasis in the region, with plenty of fresh wells.”
Abbas said that Al-Qassar has now become an area for tourists and visitors who want to discover its history and that of the Farasan Islands, as well as view the ancient houses in the village.
Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
Ordering online has pros and cons
Updated 16 min 51 sec ago
RIYADH: Hordes of Saudis have ignored government warnings to avoid crowded public areas and flocked to the shops in the run-up to Eid Al-Fitr holidays.
Many would rather head to the malls than buy online despite concerns about the dangers of spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab told Arab News that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.
He said: “Some of my friends bought products off the internet and had problems such as delays in delivery, wrong sizes, and getting different products from those they had ordered.
“I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine. Besides, I have been infected with the coronavirus.
‘I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine.’
“Also, many people have received the vaccine and are protected. Added to this, no one can enter a mall unless they have shown their status on the Tawakkalna app and had their temperature checked,” he added.
Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.
However, last year, due to the virus curfew and lockdowns, she had no choice but to order almost everything online.
• Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab said that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.
• Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.
“Ordering online has pros and cons. It saves you from the risk of getting COVID-19 but on the negative side there can be delays in delivery and wrong sizes. I use online shopping when I don’t find my size at the mall,” she added.
Although initially fearful of contracting the virus at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Dayed said she was no longer worried. “People now seem to be a lot more aware of the gravity of the situation and wear face masks all the time and use sanitizers at the mall.”
Saudi businessman Mohammed Al-Qahtani said that while online shopping had its advantages, physical shopping was more fun.
“When one orders online, the price is fixed, and you cannot bargain with the seller. When
the COVID-19 pandemic started, it was dangerous to go out to the mall but today after millions of people have been vaccinated and with precautionary measures in place, I think many people prefer to go out to the mall than order online,” he added.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for three-day visit
Pakistani leader will hold meetings with Saudi leadership over coming days
Updated 13 min 25 sec ago
JEDDAH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived Friday in Saudi Arabia ahead of a three-day visit to the Kingdom, on the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khan was received in Jeddah by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Minister of Commerce, Acting Minister of Information, Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi and other officials on his arrival.
In meetings with Saudi leadership over the coming days, Khan will cover all areas of bilateral cooperation including economics, trade, investment, environment, energy, job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and the welfare of the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom, the Pakistani foreign office said.
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The Pakistani leader will also meet the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, the Secretary General of the World Muslim League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina.
Workers in Saudi Arabia will need COVID-19 vaccine to return to workplace, HR ministry says
Urged employers to begin preparations to ensure all employees have received a vaccination
Updated 07 May 2021
RIYADH: All workers attending a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development said on Friday.
“Receiving a coronavirus vaccine will be a mandatory condition for male and female workers to attend workplaces in all sectors (public, private, non-profit),” the ministry said on Twitter.
It also urged employers to begin preparations to ensure all employees have received a vaccination, saying: “The ministry will soon clarify the mechanisms of the decision and its implementation date.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 13 new COVID-19 related deaths on Friday, which raised the total number of fatalities in the Kingdom to 7,045.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,039 new cases of the disease in the country over the past 24 hours, meaning 424,445 people have now contracted the disease since the pandemic began.
Of the total number of cases, 9,750 remain active and 1,311 in critical condition, a decrease from the day before.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 386, followed by Makkah with 274 and the Eastern Province with 140, while Asir recorded 46 and Madinah confirmed 45 cases.
The ministry also announced that 1,061 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 407,650.
#الصحة تعلن عن تسجيل (1039) حالة إصابة جديدة بفيروس كورونا (كوفيد-19)، وتسجيل (13) حالات وفيات رحمهم الله، وتسجيل (1061) حالة تعافي ليصبح إجمالي عدد الحالات المتعافية (407,650) حالة ولله الحمد. pic.twitter.com/J9YzqDwAv6
— و ز ا ر ة ا لـ صـ حـ ة السعودية (@SaudiMOH) May 7, 2021