Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 press conferences come to an end

Saudi Arabia will no longer require travelers to undergo mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upon arrival in the Kingdom. Passengers will also no longer need to provide a PCR test upon their arrival. (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia will no longer require travelers to undergo mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upon arrival in the Kingdom. Passengers will also no longer need to provide a PCR test upon their arrival. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 March 2022

Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 press conferences come to an end

Saudi Arabia will no longer require travelers to undergo mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upon arrival in the Kingdom. Passengers will also no longer need to provide a PCR test upon their arrival. (Supplied)
  • ‘Saudi Arabia has almost overcome the pandemic completely, thanks to the expansion in the immunization drive and enhanced community awareness programs,’ says health official

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Health ended its COVID-19 press conferences, after the country lifted most precautionary and preventive measures related to combating coronavirus.

In the final press conference, Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly and Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub thanked everyone who had taken part in organizing the briefings for the past two years, as well as thanking the media and the general public for their awareness and adherence to precautionary measures to tackle the pandemic.
“The Kingdom has almost overcome the pandemic completely, thanks to the expansion in the immunization drive and enhanced community awareness programs,” Al-Aly told the press conference.




The issue of daily statistical reports of coronavirus cases will also be suspended.
Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly
Health Ministry spokesman

From March 22, 2020, at the start of the pandemic in the Kingdom and amid a time of uncertainty and fear, people across the country would tune in to the ministerial press conferences to learn about the virus and seek reassurance from experts about the measures the government was taking during the global health emergency. 
Almost two years on, there have been 225 press conferences featuring different ministries and government agencies.
They included the ministries of interior and education, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and the Public Health Authority. Together, they guided the public on the steps needed to combat the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In the final press conference, Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly and Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub thanked everyone who had taken part in organizing the briefings for the past two years, as well as thanking the media and the general public for their awareness and adherence to precautionary measures to tackle the pandemic.

• From March 22, 2020, at the start of the pandemic in the Kingdom and amid a time of uncertainty and fear, people across the country would tune in to the ministerial press conferences to learn about the virus and seek reassurance from experts about the measures the government was taking during the global health emergency.  

• Almost two years on, there have been 225 press conferences featuring different ministries and government agencies. They included the ministries of interior and education, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and the Public Health Authority. Together, they guided the public on the steps needed to combat the pandemic.

Taiseer Almofarej, executive director of corporate communication and awareness at the SFDA, said that each stage he participated in was a response to what was happening at the time. 
“At the beginning we sensed a responsibility during the slogan we are all responsible, and then anticipation during the phase of returning (to normal life) cautiously, and motivation during the vaccine rollout,” Almofarej told Arab News.

Education Ministry spokesperson Ibtisam Al-Shehri said the COVID-19 crisis was difficult for everyone, and even more so for the millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers in the Kingdom because of the uncertainty brought on by school closures and the unfamiliarity with new teaching methods.

She recalled the scenes of empty schools and classrooms after in-person attendance was suspended, but also the efforts that were made to reach students during lockdown.
“I felt proud that I was part of the work team who, with the support of rational leadership and follow-up from the minister of education, made great efforts to continue the study and educational process for students and not stop it for one day,” she told Arab News.
Al-Shehri, who is the first Saudi woman to be an official spokesperson in a government agency, said that while social relations were affected during the pandemic due to precautionary measures, people were able to adapt to the new conditions.
“We are eagerly returning to normal life,” she added, expressing her happiness that the crisis was being overcome.
Saad Al-Hammad had permission to move during the curfew period because of the nature of his work, as a spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, and he remembered how Riyadh’s streets were almost empty of pedestrians, cars, and activity.
“It was making me constantly think about the human condition and life,” he told Arab News.
He said he was happy at the declining number of COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia and how life was returning to normal.
Al-Hammad, who also writes for the online Sabq newspaper, said: “The pandemic may have drawn new patterns of relationships and human communication, but it did not shake our connection with our loved ones, relatives and friends.”
Sultan Al-Qahtani, the spokesman for the Saudi Housing Program, felt that his routine had “really changed” since Sunday.
He also said that the lessons learned during the pandemic were useful and had benefits, adding that having to communicate remotely for long periods had placed him in several difficult situations.
“Distance communication is a form of communication, but sometimes, especially in delicate or complex topics, for example, you may need to communicate with others face to face.”
The Ministry of Health press conference aired everyday during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. It then went on to three times a week, and eventually ended up taking place once a week.
Al-Aly said the ministry would continue providing important information and developments related to the pandemic and that a press conference would be held only if necessary or new developments took place. 
The ministry has also stopped the daily reports being shared though the Saudi Press Agency.
“The issue of daily statistical reports of coronavirus cases will also be suspended. However, the data will be available for experts and specialists on the official website of the ministry,” the spokesman said.
The precautionary measures lifted include all social distancing measures, including the axing of social distancing in the Two Holy Mosques. Wearing masks outdoors is no longer mandatory.
Saudi Arabia will no longer require travelers to undergo mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upon arrival in the Kingdom. Passengers will also no longer need to provide a PCR test upon their arrival.
But all arrivals in the Kingdom on visit visas of any kind are required to get insurance that covers the cost of treatment from any coronavirus infection.
Wearing masks indoors is still required and people will still need to show their immunity status on the Tawakkalna app to enter commercial establishments such as hotels and restaurants.
“Feelings of pride prevail over any other feeling, and we have the right to be proud of what Saudi Arabia has provided during the pandemic at all health, social, humanitarian and economic levels, as these efforts were a model for professional dealing in crisis management worldwide,” Almofarej said.


All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
Updated 21 min 8 sec ago

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit

All you need to know about Saudi Arabia’s new social media influencer permit
  • Kingdom’s media regulator says new law to take effect from October, with all social media influencers affected

LONDON: As more Saudis connect through their social media profiles and even begin to profit from these platforms, the Kingdom has launched a new licensing system to properly monitor the influencer industry.

From early October, every Saudi and non-Saudi content creator in the Kingdom who earns revenue through advertising on social media must first apply for an official permit from the General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM).

For a fee of SR15,000 (roughly $4,000), content creators will receive a permit lasting three years, during which time they can work with as many private entities as they wish and promote any product or service, as long as it does not violate the Kingdom’s laws or values.
 

The incoming influencer license “is not a permit to censor or to block,” Esra Assery, CEO at GCAM, told Arab News. “It’s more of a permit to enable the maturity of the sector. We want to help those individuals grow, but grow in a professional way so they can make a career out of (social media revenue).”

The new regulations are being touted as legal protections, both for influencers and businesses wishing to advertise with them, so that rates and contractual obligations are standardized across the industry.

“The market is so unregulated,” said Assery. “We’re not against influencers or those individuals. Actually, we want to enable them. If you check out the new bylaw, it protects them also, because the bylaw regulates their relationship with the advertisers.”
 

Esra Assery, CEO at Saudi Arabia's General Commission for Audiovisual Media. (Supplied)

Currently, anyone in Saudi Arabia is able to advertise on social media and earn money from deals with private entities — with payments per post climbing into the thousands of riyals, depending on the number of followers an influencer can reach.

Concern has been expressed that introducing permits and regulations will undermine how much money influencers can make and might even constitute censorship. However, GCAM insists the permits are designed to ensure transparency between influencers and their clients.

Saudi influencers, whether based in the Kingdom or abroad, must apply for the permit if they wish to work with a brand — local or international. However, non-Saudi residents in the country must follow a different track.

After applying to the Ministry of Investment for a permit to work in the country, they can then apply for an influencer permit through GCAM. However, non-Saudi residents must be represented by specific advertising agencies.

“While some influencers may focus on the short-term loss of paying the license fee, there is a huge benefit to licensing coming in as it legitimizes the sector on a national level,” Jamal Al-Mawed, founder and managing director of Gambit Communications, told Arab News.

“This is crucial in the influencer industry as it has been a bit of a wild west for marketing in the past, with no clear benchmarking for rates or contracts.”

Al-Mawed said that the new measures can protect brands that are susceptible to fraud “when they pay huge budgets to influencers who are buying fake followers and fake engagements. This creates a vicious circle, as hard-working content creators are undermined by the bad apples.”

Although the new license is unlikely to solve every issue overnight, “it does create a foundation for more professionalism and accountability,” Al-Mawed added.

Under new rules, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom are prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. (Shutterstock image)

In June, non-Saudi residents and visitors to the Kingdom were prohibited from posting ads on social media without a license. Those who ignore the ruling face a possible five-year prison sentence and fines of up to SR5 million.

GCAM announced the ban after finding “violations by numerous non-Saudi advertisers, both residents and visitors, on social media platforms.”

“After checking their data, it was found that they had committed systemic violations, including lack of commercial registrations and legal licenses, and they are not working under any commercial entity or foreign investment license,” the commission said at the time.

Now, with a regulated license, such violations will be easier to monitor and the sector will be better regulated to ensure full transparency.
 

Businesses such as bakeries or hair salons that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services are not covered by the prohibition. (Shutterstock image)

Although Saudi influencers will be able to hold full-time jobs while earning on the side through promotional campaigns on their social media profiles, the law states that non-Saudis can work only in one specific role while residing in the Kingdom.

However, the system does not apply to businesses and entities — such as bakeries or hair salons — that hold social media accounts and advertise their own products or services on these platforms. Only individuals are affected by the new law.

There are certain exceptions, however, such as individuals who have been invited to the country by a ministry or government entity in order to perform, including musicians and entertainers.

With the rise of social media over the past decade, content creators and so-called influencers with thousands of followers on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and other platforms have drawn audiences away from traditional outlets, such as television, newspapers and magazines, to new and largely unregulated media.
 

Sensing the shift in content consumption, advertisers have followed the herd. Crystal-blue waters caressing white, sandy beaches at luxury resorts and scrumptious feasts at the finest restaurants are now commonplace on influencer profiles as businesses rush to take advantage of more “natural-feeling” product placement.

However, regulators have struggled to keep up with this rapid transformation, leaving the process open to legal disputes, exploitation and abuse. That is why authorities elsewhere in the world have also been exploring influencer permits.

Dubai, widely seen as the influencer hub of the Middle East, is among them.

In 2018, the UAE’s National Media Council launched a new electronic media regulation system, which required social media influencers to obtain a license to operate in the country.

The cost of the annual license is 15,000 AED (roughly $4,000). Those who fail to obtain or renew the license can face penalties including a fine of up to 5,000 AED, a verbal or official warning, and even closure of their social media accounts.

The rules apply to influencers visiting the UAE as well. They must either have a license or be signed up with an NMC-registered influencer agency to operate in the country.

With Saudi Arabia progressing in the entertainment and creative industries, the introduction of the license is viewed as a step in the right direction.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Al-Mawed. “When someone is licensed by the government to offer their services, that gives them a level of safety and trust and can help filter out the scammers who prefer to fly under the radar.”

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4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   
Updated 11 August 2022

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

4,291 Saudi health security trainees graduate   

RIYADH: A fourth group of health security trainees graduated from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties in a virtual ceremony on Wednesday. 

A total of 4,291 male and female graduates will join the job market. 

Dr. Aws Al-Shamsan, secretary-general of the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said that health security plays an important role in improving healthcare services.

The program includes practical and theoretical training for three months, in addition to two weeks of field training in one of the health sectors, allowing trainees to benefit from hands-on experience.

Health security graduates receive a diploma allowing them to work in the Kingdom’s health sector.


Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits
Updated 11 August 2022

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

Umbrellas raise Makkah pilgrims’ spirits

JEDDAH: Pilgrims sheltering from heavy rain in Makkah on Tuesday received a helping hand when the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques handed out umbrellas to visitors at the Grand Mosque.

Khaled bin Fahd Al-Shalwi, assistant for the general president for social, voluntary and humanitarian services agency, said that the “Umbrella of Mu’tamer” initiative is part of a range of services designed to help visitors perform their rituals. 

Programs and services come under the direction of the President for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, who strives to provide a safe environment to allow visitors to the Grand Mosque to complete their rituals with ease, he added. 

According to the presidency’s website, the presidency has also employed more than 200 supervisors, 4,000 female and male workers, and utilized more than 500 items of equipment to deal with the rain at the Grand Mosque through its environmental protection agency. 

Ahmed bin Omar Bilaamash, assistant to the general president for services and achievement of the environmental protection agency, said that prayer areas, entrances and exits, and the mataf — the circumambulation space around the Kaaba — are equipped to handle the rainfall. 


Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
Updated 10 August 2022

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
  • Event will be attended by experts in maritime security from around the world
  • The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security

RIYADH: The 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum will be held in Jeddah from November 15-17.
Organized by the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the event aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on how best to ensure maritime safety in a rapidly changing global environment.
Titled “Protecting Marine Units and Vital Coastal Sites Against the Threat of Unmanned Systems,” the forum will highlight the threat of such systems and present ways in which they can be dealt with.
Thanking the crown prince for his sponsorship of the event, RSNF Commander Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghufaili said it would also discuss the role individual nations and international organizations have to play in maintaining maritime security.
The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security, he added.
“It also aims to enhance the role of the RSNF in cooperation with marine environment authorities at the national level, and what naval forces of brotherly and friendly countries are doing to support regional and international efforts, ensure the safety of maritime traffic and contribute to sustaining the global economy,” Al-Ghufaili said.
Military specialists and experts from the fields of technology, industry and academia will take part in a series of workshops during the forum, which will also be attended by representatives from government ministries and organizations and international corporations.
The event will also provide a platform for companies from around the world to display their latest equipment, technologies and systems related to maritime security.


Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital
Updated 11 August 2022

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital

Who’s Who: Hassan Al-Jeshi, CEO of an asset management firm Malaz Capital

Hassan Al-Jeshi was appointed CEO of Malaz Capital in July this year.

Malaz Capital is an asset management firm operating under the regulations of the Capital Market Authority of Saudi Arabia.

The company obtained its CMA license in 2010, and is authorized to carry out asset management, dealing as principal and custody services in the Kingdom.

Prior to joining Malaz Capital, Al-Jeshi held several leadership positions in leading investment institutions and a group of national and international banks, including head of equity capital markets at Saudi National Bank Capital in 2021, the investment arm of SNB.

He worked at Samba Financial Group, holding two different positions including assistant general manager from 2017, and head of investment banking from 2020 at Samba Capital, the group’s investment arm.

From 2013-17, Al-Jeshi worked as group head of corporate finance at Alistithmar Capital, the investment arm of The Saudi Investment Bank.

In 2012, he worked in energy and infrastructure investment banking at Taylor-DeJongh, Washington, DC.

Al-Jeshi has extensive professional experience in the field of investment and capital markets locally, regionally, and internationally, where he has led through his positions multiple landmark and significant investment transactions.

At Samba he managed and oversaw the full cycle of investment banking deal-related activities, including deal origination, client management, building financial models, performing valuation, transaction structuring, and preparing to offer documents, reviewing transaction agreements and more.

During his early career, Al-Jeshi also worked as a business consultant to a number of small and medium enterprises at start-up and growth stages in areas related to preliminary feasibility study assessment, capital budgeting, valuation, and fundraising.

Al-Jeshi holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals which he received in 2005, and in 2013 he earned a master’s degree in finance from George Washington University in the US.