JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced that residents in the Kingdom above the age of 50 will now be able to receive their second dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after completing more than 40 days from their first dose.
More than 17 million doses have been administered as 48.8 percent of the country’s population has been inoculated with at least one dose.
The Kingdom recorded 1,255 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 479,390.
Most new cases were in the Makkah region with 340, followed by the Eastern Province (282) and Riyadh (203) while Jouf had only six people who tested positive.
There are 11,322 active cases while the number of critical cases dropped to 1,451 compared to the day before. Fourteen new COVID-19-related deaths have raised the total number of fatalities to 7,730.
The MoH said that a further 1,247 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 460,338. The country’s recovery rate is currently at 96 percent and holding steady.
In addition, 91,021 new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests conducted in the past 24 hours have raised the number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to over 21.3 million.
Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 3,899 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities in one day, identifying 57 violations.
The violations varied between noncompliance with social distancing and wearing a mask, leniency in measuring the temperature of customers, overcrowding issues and failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.
Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or using the Balady app.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president
The message dealt with ways to develop bilateral relations
It was delivered by Saudi foreign minister during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid
Updated 29 min 7 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a written message to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, regarding their strong bilateral relations and ways to support and enhance them, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The message was delivered by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
During the reception, Prince Faisal conveyed greetings from King Salman to Sheikh Khalifa, wishing him and the Emirati people continued progress and prosperity.
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE president expressed appreciation for the Saudi monarch, wishing him good health and wellness and the Saudi people further development and growth.
Saudi crown prince leaves for Oman on first leg of GCC tour
The tour is aimed at boosting and strengthening ties with GCC countries
Oman says his visit affirms the fraternal ties and historical relations binding both nations
Updated 42 min 6 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman left the Kingdom for Oman on Monday, the first leg of multiple stops in his tour of Gulf states.
Prince Mohammed’s visit comes “based on directives from King Salman, his keenness to communicate with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and to strengthen ties,” the Royal Court said in a statement issued by Saudi Press Agency.
During his tour, the crown prince will meet with leaders and senior officials in the sultanate, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, to discuss bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in all fields, as well as other issues of common interest.
Expected to be on the agenda when he meets with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq are issues of mutual concern and ways to promote the interests of the two Gulf countries as well as ‘fulfilling the aspirations and hopes’ of their peoples, Oman’s state news agency ONA reported earlier on Monday.
The visit is an “affirmation of the ties of fraternity and kinship, and the historical relations binding the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” ONA said, adding both countries “are set for a new stage of economic and investment cooperation in all fields.”
Last July, the two countries reaffirmed plans to engage in joint investment in advanced technologies, innovation, renewable energy projects, industry health, real estate, tourism, petrochemical converting industries, supply chains, logistics partnership, information technology and financial technology, the ONA report said.
“The achievements made over the past five months and the active exchange of visits among officials reflect the keen desire of the two countries to work together.” This includes establishing the Saudi-Omani Investment Forum that was held in Muscat in August, where a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed.
Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition
Bahrain strongly condemned the attack
Updated 06 December 2021
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed Houthi drones targeting the Kingdom, the Arab coalition said early on Monday.
The drones were shot down in Yemen before they could cause harm.
This follows the downing of several drones launched by the Iran-back militia on Sunday.
The action comes as the Arab coalition forces have been eliminating militia assets in recent weeks, including weapons and personnel.
The militia frequently launch cross border attacks using explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles targeting populated areas in the Kingdom’s southern region.
The group, who seized the Yemeni capital in 2014, have been fighting the internationally recognized government, which is supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
Earlier on Sunday, the coalition said Saudi defenses intercepted and destroyed four drones that tried to target the southern region.
The Arab Parliament denounced the attacks and said they constitute a clear violation of the Stockholm Agreement, which stipulates a cease-fire.
It “called on the international community to take an immediate and decisive stance to stop these repeated terrorist acts, and to prevent this militia from acquiring advanced military technology, which the Iranian regime supplies and used to target vital and civilian facilities.”
The UAE strongly condemned the attempts to target the Kingdom and said the continuation of these terrorist attacks by the Houthi militia reflects its blatant defiance of the international community.
Bahrain also strongly condemned the attacks, saying it “reflects the militias’ continued sinister and systematic attacks to target civilians and innocent lives.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed Bahrain’s support for all measures Saudi Arabia takes to ensure the security and safety of its territory, citizens and residents.
The war in Yemen has now raged for seven years, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place this year in the resource-rich and government-held province of Marib.
On Sunday, three Yemeni civilians were wounded when four Houthi missiles landed in residential areas in Marib.
Large explosions rocked the city after the four missiles hit the airport, Al-Shareka and Rawdha neighborhoods, residents said.
Footage on social media showed thick smoke billowing from shelled areas as people fled.
“The Houthi militia’s repeated targeting of the city of Marib, which is crowded with millions of residents and displaced people, with ballistic missiles is part of its attempts to inflict a big number of casualties among civilians. This is a cowardly act of revenge,” said Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s information minister.
Finnish runner to cross Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert
Jukka Viljanen will set off on Dec. 6 on a 25-day journey through 1,300 km of desert terrain, with the aim of becoming the first person to run across the massive desert
"This dream to run across the Empty Quarter has been my passion. I am very passionate about it because Rub Al-Khali is the biggest and the most beautiful sand desert in the world, it inspires me. My passion keeps me motivated to run for adventure"
Updated 06 December 2021
RIYADH: A Finnish adventurer has set himself the challenge of joining the ranks of record-breaking pioneers who have made the grueling journey across Rub Al-Khali, Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter. Adventure runner Jukka Viljanen will set off on Dec. 6 on a 25-day journey through 1,300 km of desert terrain, with the aim of becoming the first person to run across the massive desert.
The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The vast landscape of ever-shifting dunes was explored between the early 1930s and the 1950s by the likes of Bertram Thomas, the first recorded Westerner to cross the desert, and Wilfred Thesiger, and their Arab companions.
More recently, photographer Anna Aiko crossed Rub Al-Khali on camel in 2019, and Italian explorer Max Calderan, a long-time resident of Dubai, completed the first solo crossing of the Empty Quarter in 2020. Previous explorers have crossed shorter sections of Rub Al-Khali on camels or in off-road vehicles.
Given the inhospitable terrain and testing conditions, the journey is a test of endurance however it is undertaken but Viljanen aims to take the challenge to another level by running the whole way, covering about 50 kilometers a day. His challenge has been organized by Delta Adventures, a leader in desert journeys and adventures in Saudi Arabia.
“I started as an adventure runner 15 years ago,” Viljanen said during an exclusive interview with Arab News. “I am very passionate about the sand dunes; they energize me. I love the desert.
“It has become a challenge for me as the Empty Quarter has not been crossed fully yet. I want to make it with my team. I am very passionate about creating history by crossing it successfully.
Given the inhospitable terrain and testing conditions, the journey is a test of endurance however it is undertaken but Jukka Viljanen aims to take the challenge to another level by running the whole way, covering about 50 kilometers a day. His challenge has been organized by Delta Adventures, a leader in desert journeys and adventures in Saudi Arabia.
“This dream to run across the Empty Quarter has been my passion. I am very passionate about it because Rub Al-Khali is the biggest and the most beautiful sand desert in the world, it inspires me. My passion keeps me motivated to run for adventure. It’s my passion that brought me here.”
Viljanen said he chose Dec. 6 as the start date for his adventure for a special reason: “It’s the Finnish National Day.”
The expedition will be his first experience of running in the Empty Quarter, though has run in other Saudi deserts. In fact he has run in a number of challenging environments around the world.
“In 2007, I went to the North Pole where I participated in a marathon with snowshoes,” he said. “Then I did another marathon with a mountain bike.
“After the North Pole I decided to challenge myself more so I entered another race, which was in the Libyan Sahara in 2008. I did a 200km race over there. Then I went to Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole
"Some years later, I decided to run across (more) deserts. My first event was at the Kalahari Desert in 2010.”
Viljanen ran across more than 1,000 km of the Kalahari in 20 days, including some of the most remote wilderness areas in Botswana.
“A few years later I was the first one to run across the Sahara Desert, which was 1,628 km in 31 days,” he added. “Two years ago I was able to run across the second-biggest ice sheet in the world … across the icecap of Greenland. That was approximately 600 km.”
His experiences and achievements are remarkable but he has no intention of stopping any time soon — quite the opposite.
“I want to go further and out of my comfort zone,” Viljanen said. “I want to raise the bar for myself, and that’s the reason I am here in Saudi Arabia: I want to be the first person to run across the Empty Quarter.”
He will run alone but will be accompanied by a backup team consisting of Saudis and a friend from Finland. The team leaders are Mohammed Al-Khamis and Ady Al-Khamis, the owners of Delta Adventures.
“I have known them since 2014, when I was here in Riyadh for the first time,” said Viljanen “They have been to the Empty Quarter before. I consider them my extended family.”
The climate in Saudi Arabia is a lot different to his native Finland but Viljanen is taking it all in his stride.
“Yes, it’s a lot warmer but I am quite used to it because of my experiences in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts,” he said. “I like that it’s warm, I take that as a bonus.”
He said he hopes he will have a chance to talk to young people in Saudi Arabia to share his experiences and help inspire them in their own lives and ambitions.
“I would like to speak to the Saudi people after the voyage,” Viljanen said. “I will be back here to share my story. People should raise their bar and they should have new goals in their lives, coming out of their comfort zone. It cannot be achieved sitting in their comfort zone. People have lots of potential but they don’t know it; we should motivate them to become role models for others.
“The main message is ‘challenge yourself.’ I am a motivational speaker and will give motivational talks to Saudi students and people to inspire them to accept the challenge and get out of their comfort zone, because the magic happens outside of the comfort zone. The Empty Quarter is not a comfort zone; the magic will happen there.”
This visit is Viljanen’s fifth to Saudi Arabia, and he said he is always impressed by Saudi traditions and the reception he receives.
“Besides my passion to run, I want to learn about new cultures,” he added. “I am amazed by the warm hospitality of the Saudi people. I attended a Saudi wedding ceremony on Wednesday. It was a blessing. I joined them in traditional dance and enjoyed it.”
It remains to be seen how his Empty Quarter challenge will compare to previous tests, but he is clear about what has been his most difficult undertaking so far.
“It was Greenland,” Viljanen said. “Crossing the ice sheet in 2019 was very difficult. It was full of snow and very cold. The terrain was really very difficult but it was very rewarding. I realized that I have potential, and here I am because of my North Pole experience.”
If running across the ice was his most challenging test, deserts present their own challenges.
“Sand makes it tough,” he explained. “It can ruin your legs so you really need to focus on taking care. Hot weather is another challenge but I keep myself very much hydrated. I drink every 20-30 minutes. I keep myself energized by eating every hour so my sugar level does not drop.”
Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail
Updated 06 December 2021
RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Naval Forces and their Bahraini counterparts launched a mixed bilateral naval exercise in the Eastern Province on the Arabian Gulf, the Saudi defense ministry announced on Sunday.
The JISR-22 exercise was held at King Abdul Aziz Naval Base in Jubail.
Vice Admiral Majid bin Hazza Al-Qahtani, commander of the Eastern Fleet, said that the exercise will enhance the capabilities that ensure the security and stability of the region, and develop operational compatibility and tactical efficiency.
The exercise will also strengthen capabilities in naval operations, with the participation of the Royal Saudi Air Force in close air support.
Al-Qahtani added that the exercise is an extension of the JISR (bridge) exercises, which are carried out periodically between the two countries, and aims to enhance security cooperation, secure territorial waters, and unify concepts and joint work.