Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
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After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17. (Supplied)
Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
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After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
  • Coronavirus restrictions in some countries have restricted Saudi travelers’ options

JEDDAH: With summer knocking on our doors, Saudi travelers will head to the Kingdom’s airports for their first international journeys in over a year — but many face challenges ahead.

After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17.

Almost 11.5 million residents of the Kingdom have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab and more than 400,000 recoveries have been reported by the Saudi health ministry.

While some Saudis have restricted their holiday or business destinations to the safest areas due to COVID-19 protocols, many are undeterred by the challenges ahead and can’t wait to fasten their seatbelts.

Planning a holiday in the coming months will be far from easy — choices are limited and quarantine measures are in place in a number of destinations that are popular for summer holidays. However, many tourists are still willing to travel and face the music. 

In the wake of the global pandemic, both countries and individual travelers are wary of restrictions. But even with a massive vaccine rollout in place, and authorities easing travel abroad for those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered from the illness, many Saudis are opting to head closer to home. 

“As soon as we heard that Bahrain is allowing Saudis in without the need to quarantine, we raced to book our hotel and tickets, but they were fully booked for the first week,” said 34-year old Maha Al-Hussain from Riyadh.

“My family and I had the good fortune to visit Jeddah every now and then, but we’d like a holiday for the children to roam free and swim all day, so everyone can just take a break.”

My family and I have been searching for a new and different place to travel to for a few days now and my father was adamant that we do so especially since we’re all vaccinated.

Kholoud Yousef

The mother of three told Arab News that although it is hard to book flights for seven people at the moment, the family decided to make the four-hour drive to Bahrain and hope for a smooth entry at the King Fahd Causeway. 

“All of the adults are vaccinated and our children know the rules by now,” she said. “We went through hardships as did everyone this year. The trip is important for us all and we’ve been extra careful through it all. We’ll continue being careful until we’re back home again.”

Earlier, Bahrain announced that all GCC visitors who are fully vaccinated or recovered are no longer required to undergo a PCR test on arrival but must show evidence of vaccination or recovery. 

For Saudis, a little more care and attention is given, with a welcome back campaign launched by the neighboring island kingdom featuring the slogan “walahna alaikom,” or “we’ve missed you.”

While the state of travel to the 20 countries on the list remains in place, airlines are ready to operate normally to many cities across the world, although a number of countries are limiting arrivals. 

Several EU member states have limited arrivals from outside the EU, while others are allowing visitors back but with restrictions. 

On Friday, Greek Ambassador to the Kingdom Alexis Konstantoloulos announced that Saudis wishing to travel to Greece will be able to do so with a negative PCR test or vaccination certification and on completion of a passenger location form.

FASTFACTS

Saudis permitted to travel abroad: • Saudis who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

• Saudis who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine no less than 14 days before the flight.

• Citizens who recovered from COVID-19 at least six months before the flight.

“Welcome back to our Saudi friends, Greece is expecting you,” he tweeted.

Pre-travel PCR tests conducted no more than 72-48 hours before arrival, travel insurance, five to 10 days of quarantine on arrival at the traveler’s expense and post-arrival PCR tests are among the requirements a number EU member states are requesting, but the numbers are limited as many countries are restricting nonessential travel. 

The UK, a favorite destination for many Saudis, will require self-isolation on arrival as Saudi Arabia remains in its amber category. The list will be reviewed every three weeks, according to UK officials.

Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Spain, Poland, Vietnam, Czech Republic and Belgium are among countries still suspending international tourist arrivals.

Citizens are urged to review travel restrictions for each destination as each country requires a different set of requirements before traveling and on arrival.

“Dubai is next,” said 32-year-old PR director Yousef A. “I’ve visited Dubai many times in the past few years and it has become something of a second home for my family and I,” he told Arab News.

“I did my homework. Saudi Arabia is on the UAE’s safe ‘green list’ and no quarantine is required. As soon as the Saudi authorities allow it, that will be my next destination.” 

The search for relaxed COVID-19 restrictions has been continuing for weeks after news was confirmed that the Kingdom’s travel ban would be lifted on May 17, but it is a struggle, as 27-year-old Kholoud Yousef explained to Arab News.

“We initially planned on traveling to Bali during the first week after the ban was lifted, but when we heard we’d have to quarantine for five days and take two PCR tests, we realized it would take a good chunk out of our holiday time and we don’t want to be holed up in our hotel rooms,” she told Arab News.

“My family and I have been searching for a new and different place to travel to for a few days now and my father was adamant that we do so especially since we’re all vaccinated. 

We’re putting Bali on hold for now and heading to Morocco next week, and it was an easy choice. All we needed was a confirmed hotel reservation. It feels good to know that we can travel again. Hopefully, this is going to be one great trip.”


Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy
  • Al-Rajhi said Saudi Arabia has shown tremendous progress in achieving gender participation gap target agreed at the Brisbane summit
  • He called for the need to properly classify workers to ensure their rights

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi, concluded on Wednesday the Kingdom’s participation in the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ Meeting in Rome, the ministry said.
His participation came as part of the Kingdom’s support for Italy, which holds the rotating G20 presidency, as a member of the Tripartite Committee (troika) for the current year. The Troika is represented by the country that holds the presidency, its predecessor (Saudi Arabia), and its successor (Indonesia) and works to ensure continuity within the G20.
The program included a joint meeting with the education ministers of member states to discuss issues related to supporting efforts to facilitate the transition of young graduates to the labor market, whereby they reached an agreement after holding an independent session and issued a joint statement.

Al-Rajhi delivered a speech in which he said: “Saudi Arabia commends the Italian presidency for adopting priorities that promote women’s employment, gender equality in the labor market, work patterns in the era of digitization, and social protection systems that ensure efforts from the previous presidency continue. These areas are of great importance in the field of public policy for each of the G20 countries and the world.”
He called for the continuity of work on the G20 Youth Roadmap 2025 approved by the ministers during the Kingdom’s presidency last year, and said that some important issues, such as those related to women and gender equality in the labor market, provide the opportunity to make tangible progress in previous ministerial commitments.
He said that Saudi Arabia has shown tremendous progress in achieving gender participation gap target agreed at the Brisbane summit.

“Based on data from 2014 to 2020, for Saudi nationals in the labor market, we have exceeded the Brisbane target with a gap reduction of 27 percent, where in 2016, the National Transformation Program set a goal to increase women’s participation to 30 percent by 2030, and this goal has been exceeded with the achievement level reaching 33.2 percent by 2020, which confirms that the Kingdom has made progress by surpassing targets that were very ambitious and challenging,” he added.
Al-Rajhi siad that the current labor market is highly affected by global trends, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, and witnessed a significant acceleration in the use of modern technologies, including artificial intelligence, even in the most traditional business models.
He called for the need to properly classify workers to ensure their rights with regard to wages, occupational health and safety, and working hours, in addition to their access to adequate social protection.
Al-Rajhi headed the ministry’s delegation to the G20 ministerial meetings, which kicked off on Monday in Catania, and included Dr. Ahmed Al-Zahrani, undersecretary for labor affairs and head of the employment group for the Saudi side in the Tripartite Committee, as well as Undersecretary for International Affairs Dr. Adnan Al-Naim.


Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting

Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting

Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji also tells meeting on international cooperation about the nation’s environmental credentials

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji told an international gathering on Wednesday how the Kingdom’s government went to great lengths to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and protect public health.
Speaking on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a virtual, high-level meeting on International Cooperation Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Asia-Pacific Region, hosted by China, he said Saudi authorities implemented stringent precautionary and health measures to the highest international medical standards, along with World Health Organization protocols.
Al-Khuraij added that his country worked last year, during its presidency of the G20, to amend the program for the group’s annual summit to focus mainly on addressing the pandemic, including its effects on health and its economic and social consequences. In addition, the efforts of all working groups were intensified in an effort to address the most important issues affecting the lives of people all over the world.
He said Saudi Arabia continues to work closely with international partners to address the pandemic, based on a belief in the importance of international cooperation. It also shares with the world its experience of the challenges and difficulties it has faced, as an extension of its international partnerships and in response to humanitarian calls from around the world, to which the Kingdom has spared no effort in responding in an effort to improve people’s lives.
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 diversification and development program highlighted environmental and sustainable development among its main objectives, he added, and stressed the need to emphasize the preservation of the environment during the nation’s presidency of the G20. It therefore placed this at the forefront of its agenda, based on a desire to ensure sustainability and find feasible solutions to global environmental, climate and energy issues.
Al-Khuraij also highlighted the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March, which aim to protect the planet and combat environmental challenges. Among other ambitious targets, they aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent in the region, and plant 50 billion trees as part of the world’s biggest afforestation project.


Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks

Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks
The report explores the impact of cyberattacks and breaches on organizations and details how security teams are adapting to these challenges. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks

Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks
  • “Having an infrastructure that can provide a security operations center, with robust situational intelligence, will give context to threats and help prioritize potential targets and remediate risk with confidence”

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s senior cybersecurity professionals and their organizations continue to face serious threats as nearly 93 percent of the 252 organizations surveyed in the Kingdom experienced a cyberattack in the past year, according to a report.
VMware, an American cloud computing and virtualization technology company, released the findings from the fourth installment of the Global Security Insights Report. It was based on an online survey of 3,542 chief information security officers (CISOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and chief technology officers (CTOs) in December 2020 from across the globe.
The average number of breaches suffered by each organization was 2.47 over the past year while 11 percent of respondents said their organizations had been breached between 5 to 10 times. The uptick in attacks was mainly due to more employees working from home, highlighting the vulnerabilities in legacy security technology and postures.
The report explores the impact of cyberattacks and breaches on organizations and details how security teams are adapting to these challenges. Accelerated digital transformation has caused security teams to face evolving threats as cybercriminals seize the opportunity to execute targeted attacks exploiting fast-tracked innovation and remote workforces.
In an online press conference, Ahmed El Saadi, VMware’s regional director of sales, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, said that complexity is the enemy of security. It is an indication that organizations cannot see into the corners where personal mobile devices and home networks have been grafted to corporate distributed IT infrastructure through insecure technologies such as VPNs.
“It is vital that organizations gain visibility of their networks through cloud-based technologies such as Secure Access Services Edge (SASE),” El Saadi said.
“Having an infrastructure that can provide a security operations center, with robust situational intelligence, will give context to threats and help prioritize potential targets and remediate risk with confidence.”

HIGHLIGHT

The average number of breaches suffered by each organization was 2.47 over the past year while 11 percent of respondents said their organizations had been breached between 5 to 10 times. The uptick in attacks was mainly due to more employees working from home, highlighting the vulnerabilities in legacy security technology and postures. 

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and the National Information Center are doing a quite great job in this regard, he said, as they are using advanced cybersecurity technology to ensure secure services.
For his part, Saif Mashat, VMware’s country managing director, Saudi Arabia, said it is vital for organizations in the Kingdom to fully understand their security weaknesses if they are to improve their security posture.
“Many organizations surveyed are already using, or planning to use a cloud-first security strategy, and while they may encounter significant challenges related to cybersecurity, there is room for optimism,” Mashat told Arab News.
“By adopting an intrinsic, cloud-first approach to security, whereby security is built-in, and not bolted-on, organizations will be able to address challenges including ineffective legacy security technology and process weaknesses.”
He added that this will ensure companies in Saudi Arabia are better positioned for success in a fast-changing world, while also supporting the Kingdom’s ambitions to be a digital leader.
The report highlighted a shift that has undoubtedly changed the threat landscape, requiring security teams to transform their cybersecurity strategies and stay one step ahead of attackers.
The report also emphasized that key focus areas for the coming year must include improving visibility into all endpoints and workloads. Responding to the resurgence of ransomware, delivering security as a distributed service, and adopting an intrinsic approach to cloud-first security are also vital for a company’s security.
Moreover, 11 percent of all breaches were caused by ransomware, which continues to see a rapid escalation.
Ransomware has added an unwelcome tension as multistage campaigns involving penetration, persistence, data theft, and extortion are ramping up the pressure. Attackers are capitalizing on the disruption faced by remote workers and in most ransomware attacks, email continues to be used as the most common attack vector to gain initial access, the report said.
The message is being heard as 80 percent of respondents agreed they need to view security differently than they did in the past due to an expanded attack surface prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Apps also topped the list as the most vulnerable point on the data journey, but they are by no means the only area of concern.
The report also found that third-party apps are a common cause of breaches. Of the surveyed professionals, 78 percent said their ability to innovate as a business depends on them, so it is not surprising that security teams are focusing on sharpening their approach to consuming and developing them.
Some 46 percent of respondents said they plan to build more security into their infrastructure and apps and reduce the number of point solutions while 38 percent said they have adapted security to mitigate risk using existing assets.


Second batch of Saudi oil derivatives grant arrives to Yemen’s Hadramout province

Saudi Arabia delivers the second batch of oil derivatives grant to Yemen in cooperation with local authorities. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia delivers the second batch of oil derivatives grant to Yemen in cooperation with local authorities. (SPA)
Updated 24 June 2021

Second batch of Saudi oil derivatives grant arrives to Yemen’s Hadramout province

Saudi Arabia delivers the second batch of oil derivatives grant to Yemen in cooperation with local authorities. (SPA)
  • The 23,000 metric tons of oil derivatives will meet the demands of power plants in the southeastern province
  • The $422 million grant provided by the Kingdom will help provide economic and social stability for the Yemeni people

RIYADH: The second batch of the Saudi oil derivatives grant provided to Yemen has arrived at the port of Mukalla in Hadramout, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.
The 23,000 metric tons of oil derivatives will meet the demands of power plants in the southeastern province.
Abdullah Basliman, director of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen’s (SDRPY) office in Hadhramaut and Al-Mahra governorates, said the $422 million grant provided by the Kingdom through the SDRPY will help provide economic and social stability for the Yemeni people, adding that the grant is an extension of the support provided by the Kingdom to Yemen in all fields, which he described as a reflection of the strong ties between the two countries.

According to Basliman, the grant will lessen demands on the Yemeni government’s budget, reduce the depletion of hard currency in Yemen’s Central Bank with which to purchase oil derivatives from global markets, help to stabilize the Yemeni riyal’s exchange rate and fuel prices against the US dollar, improve vital services, and provide job opportunities, as well as improving the standard of living in the country by reducing the frequent power cuts.
The Kingdom’s support “will have a positive impact on the economic, health, educational and service fields,” a statement reported by the SPA said.
The SDRPY — which has so far implemented 198 development projects in Yemen, in several sectors — is working with the Yemeni government’s supervisory committee, which is tasked with ensuring, with full transparency, that the grants reach the intended beneficiaries and that the oil derivatives are used for their intended purpose.
The joint committee scheduled the shipments of the derivatives, which will also enable the Yemeni government to use money earmarked for purchasing oil derivatives to subsidize the salaries of civil servants and to provide basic services that raise the standard of living in Yemen.


Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims

Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims

Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims
  • Due to pandemic, only 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage as registration is only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom
  • Officials have completed organizational, service, and health preparations to provide the best services to pilgrims at Grand Mosque in Makkah

JEDDAH: Officials in Saudi Arabia said they have completed all the organizational, service, and health preparations to provide the best services to pilgrims upon their arrival at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during this year’s Hajj season, which will begin mid-July.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said that all field and administrative agencies and departments are working to improve the outputs of business and services through pre-prepared plans and programs.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Ministries of Health and Hajj announced earlier this month that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year as registration is only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom.

Authorities will take into account COVID-19 health requirements to preserve public health and safety while also facilitating the performance of rituals and worship in the Grand Mosque.

Those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and be within the ages of 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 

Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.