JEDDAH: Only Saudi citizens who have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to travel abroad, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
A source from the Ministry of Interior said that the decision, which will take effect from Aug. 9, was based on the waves of infection currently sweeping many places around the world, new variants of the virus, and the “low efficacy of one vaccination dose against these mutations.”
Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said that with COVID-19 mutations the biggest threat globally, second doses of vaccine become a necessity. An average of about 400,000 doses a day were administered in the Kingdom during the past seven days, he added.
Meanwhile the Health Ministry confirmed that no cases of COVID-19, or any other disease that threatens public health, were reported among pilgrims on Monday during Arafat day, the second day of Hajj and an integral part of its rituals.
“The health condition of the pilgrims is reassuring and no epidemic diseases were detected among them,” said ministry spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly.
So far 485 people have visited clinics set up to provide pilgrims with healthcare. Eighteen were taken to hospital, and seven are in intensive care. The ministry also reported 17 cases of heat exhaustion and said five successful cardiac catheterizations have been carried out.
A number of people have been arrested for violating Hajj regulations by attempting to enter the holy sites without authorization, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub.
“Because of the strict security plan and tough measures in place for this year’s pilgrimage, those violators were arrested and necessary actions were taken against them.”
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, this year’s Hajj is limited to only 60,000 people already living in the Kingdom.
Hisham Saeed, a spokesman for the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said strict plans and precautions were in place on Monday to ensure the safe and smooth transportation of pilgrims to Mount Arafat.
“Pilgrims moved in groups to and from Mount Arafat in 2,700 trips, according to a strict schedule between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.,” he added.
The ministry closely monitors the quality of its services in three distinct stages, he said. The first, before Hajj begins, is an assessment of the preparations and services for pilgrims. The second stage includes monitoring in the field during the pilgrimage. The third is after Hajj season, when authorities issue reports on the provision of services, recommendations for ways in which they could be improved, and develop plans for enhancement and development based on field observations.
Saudi Arabia on Monday reported 14 additional deaths from conditions related to COVID-19, bringing the overall death toll to 8,089.
Health authorities said 1,293 new cases of the disease have been confirmed, meaning that 510,869 people in the country have been infected. Of those, 10,631 cases remain active and 1,403 patients are in critical condition. Of the newly recorded cases, 316 are in Riyadh, 262 in Makkah, 219 in the Eastern Province and 62 in Madinah.
An additional 1,453 patients have recovered from the disease, which means the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom stands at 492,149. A total of 23,831,953 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been carried out, included 93,540 in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers established across the country have helped hundreds of thousands of people since the pandemic began. Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for people with no or only mild symptoms of the disease, or who believe they might have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with more-severe virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, or breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be booked using the ministry’s Sehhaty app.