Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 1,165 new cases

The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 189 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.07 million. (File/SPA)
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 189 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.07 million. (File/SPA)
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Updated 16 July 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 1,165 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 15 COVID-19 deaths, 1,165 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 907 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • Police in Tabuk and Qassim arrested 40 people for flouting quarantine rules

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed 15 new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,035.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,165 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 506,125 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 11,172 remain active and 1,429 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 313, followed by Makkah with 265, the Eastern Province with 185, Asir recorded 122, and Madinah confirmed 56 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 907 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 486,918.

 

Of the newly recorded cases, 313 were in Riyadh, 265 in Makkah, 185 in the Eastern Province and 56 in Madinah.

In addition, the ministry said 907 more patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 486,918.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 23,420,405 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, with 105,607 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

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.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.

Safety violators arrested

Meanwhile, police in Tabuk said they arrested 15 people for flouting quarantine rules after they tested positive for COVID-19, while police in Qassim said they arrested 25 people for violating quarantine instructions.
Penalties for individuals who violate quarantine instructions include a fine of up to SR200,000 ($53,332) and/or up to two years imprisonment, and penalties are doubled for repeat offenders. If the violation was committed by an expat, they face deportation from the Kingdom and are permanently banned from reentry.

Spain has added Saudi Arabia to the list of safe countries to receive tourists from without medical certificates, PCR certificate or a recovery certificate. Insurance is not required, either.

The Saudi embassy said that this came into force on July 12. It said Saudis wishing to go to Spain need to fill out the Spanish Ministry of Health’s form through the SpTH application or the electronic portal.

The Kingdom is one of 11 countries declared a safe country according to the Spanish classification.

In 2020, the Wego Travel website ranked the Kingdom among the “safe places to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, coming sixth in the world, the only country to be chosen from the Middle East. 


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president
Updated 21 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president

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

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 defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition

Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition

Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition
  • Bahrain strongly condemned the attack

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

The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. (Shutterstock)
The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 December 2021

Finnish runner to cross Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert

The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. (Shutterstock)
  • 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"

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.

Finnish adventure runner Jukka Viljanen (file photo)

“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.

HIGHLIGHT

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.”

I am very passionate about the sand dunes; they energize me. I love the desert. Jukka Viljanen

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

Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail

Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail

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.


Volunteerism in Saudi Arabia: A way to give back to the community

Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (Supplied)
Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (Supplied)
Updated 06 December 2021

Volunteerism in Saudi Arabia: A way to give back to the community

Volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it gives his life a bigger purpose. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia using culture of charity in Vision 2030 goal of 1 million volunteers by 2030

JEDDAH: On Dec. 5, the world marked International Volunteer Day to celebrate people who dedicate time and effort in order to help others.

International Volunteer Day was mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1985. It offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individuals to promote volunteerism, encourage governments to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at the local, national and international levels.

The number of volunteers in Saudi Arabia now stands at more than 200,000, and is expected to reach 1 million by 2030, in line with Saudi goals.

Volunteering comes from the recognition and realization of a situation that needs to be fixed, whether it affects humans, animals or nature as a whole.

Saeed Azhar, founder and chairman of Humans Come First, a Saudi volunteering and charity organization based in Jeddah, focuses on building a healthy society by conducting independent charitable campaigns and cooperating with the emerging community, to meet the needs of the less fortunate.

Saeed Azhar

Azhar has been involved in volunteer work since 2013. He told Arab News that volunteering is all about helping others selflessly as it “gives his life a bigger purpose.”
He said that the concept of volunteerism has been always there in the Saudi community, and it is part of the Saudi culture presented in different forms. However, “energies of the society need to be activated properly,” he added.

“I should give back as much as I take, to empower volunteers, empower talents, create future leaders and help those in need. I believe that Allah has chosen us to be the contact point between the poor and rich people.”

Azhar and his team, which includes 200 members, 35 volunteering campaigns and more than 7,000 volunteers from around the Kingdom, completed 27,334 hours of volunteering and served 5 million beneficiaries between 2018 and 2020.

“We are serving about 10 cities in Saudi Arabia. More than 7,000 volunteers participate with us. We have around 200 active members all around the Kingdom. We have happily and proudly improved hundreds and thousands of lives, locally and internationally,” he said.

“Today, we are working with all sectors including nonprofit organizations, government and private sectors.” This will help to create dozens of opportunities for the youth to experience volunteering in Saudi Arabia, Azhar said.

His vision is to serve humanity with several initiatives to improve lives around the globe. “International Volunteer Day is actually the same everywhere: The gift of giving has no barriers, religions, color or nationality. We are all humans, and humans come first.”

Volunteering in community health services
An award for health volunteering was launched in 2018 to shed the light on the heroes and organizations who implement outstanding volunteer health resources in the Kingdom.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, 27-year-old Saudi laboratory technician Asrar Al-Shumrani, who works a the Ministry of National Guard — Health Affairs in Riyadh, served during the pandemic at a blood donation center. “It was not easy,” he said.

He added: “We used to go out to work during the darkest times of the curfew, and we were dealing with infected people.”

Working in the medical sector is one of the “purest volunteering forms” as it keeps the community safe and healthy, he said. “Despite the shocking situations and news of lives that have been lost during the pandemic, harnessing our knowledge and our time into saving what could be saved was an honor.”

It is worth mentioning that in 2019, Saudi Arabia launched a health volunteering platform. It enables citizens and residents to volunteer and attend training programs to receive training certificates. It also enables them to take part in volunteering across the Kingdom and be awarded authenticated volunteering hours, all through a single and simple electronic portal.

Enjad: Volunteering to rescue vehicles stuck in the desert
The Saudi Civil Defense helps rescue civilians in city disasters. Enjad is a nonprofit organization that also helps by using a well-equipped and experienced Saudi team to rescue vehicles stuck in deserts around the Kingdom.

Ali Aligi, Enjad representative, told Arab News that the nonprofit aims to save lives and property in coordination with authorities, including Civil Defense.

“As soon as we receive a call, our team immediately swings into action by sending volunteers from the association to search for the missing and preserve their vehicles during rainy seasons and trekking seasons by releasing vehicles stuck in the mud,” Aligi said.

Enjad raises awareness of the risks of driving during floods and heavy rain.
It also works to present the Saudi identity in a distinctive way, and highlights the role of social solidarity among its members.

In 2021, more than 40,000 cases were dealt with through Enjad services. “Our mission continues to handle all cases of vehicle loss and suspension. I believe that the association’s goal is not only to save lives, raise awareness, preserve property and more, but to also activate volunteer work,” Aligi said.

“Most campaigns and volunteer programs have short-term goals, Enjad on the other hand stems from a continuous need,” he added.

“The community is the one who serves the community. It is not just one party, but several parties.”

To volunteer with Enjad, it is necessary to have an off-road vehicle and the appropriate tools to save a vehicle stuck in sand or mud. “There is a large group of society who possess tools and skills, but they use it only for personal needs. However, such skilled members of society would be a perfect fit to serve the community and rescue many cases from around the Kingdom.”

On the occasion of International Volunteer Day, Aligi said: “Volunteering is all about giving support and sacrificing your time for a better world, thus it must be integrated institutional community work.”