Despite Ebola, 70,000 Nigerian Hajis coming

Updated 08 September 2014

Despite Ebola, 70,000 Nigerian Hajis coming

Saudi Arabia has no plan to ban some 70,000 Nigerian pilgrims from performing Haj this year because of Ebola virus cases that have surfaced in the West African country, a senior Saudi health official said.
“We have not stopped issuing Haj visas to Nigerians and we know that about 70,000 pilgrims come from the African country every year,” said Mohammed Al-Khasheem, deputy health minister for planning and development. He said the department for preventive medicine at the ministry is in continuous contact with the WHO to stay up to date on the latest developments on the Ebola virus and other infectious diseases.
“The WHO knows the situation in Mina and Arafat during the Haj season and there is no need to worry about a few Ebola cases that have occurred in Nigeria,” he said.
Nigeria, which has reported 13 confirmed cases, with five deaths and four patients who have fully recovered, was among the first countries to declare a national emergency to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading.
“We have taken precautionary measures to prevent an Ebola outbreak in the Kingdom during the Haj season,” said Al-Khasheem. “We have made early preparations for the annual pilgrimage,” he added.
Al-Khasheem said his ministry would focus on pilgrims arriving through 16 entry points, including King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the main gateway for pilgrims, and Prince Mohammed Airport in Madinah.
The Ebola outbreak is concentrated in three West African countries. Guinea reported 510 cases and 377 deaths, while Sierra Leone reported 670 cases and 355 deaths and Liberia 670 cases and 355 deaths. Nigeria does not share a border with any of the most endemic West African countries.


High demand but no shortages in Saudi supermarkets

Danube is training staff in various regions throughout the Kingdom in picking and packing foods and other products, given the current fears sparked by the pandemic. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 min 30 sec ago

High demand but no shortages in Saudi supermarkets

  • Commerce Ministry dealing with us closely to make sure people are getting what they want, says Danube co-founder

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Commerce is checking stocks on a daily basis and monitoring prices to ensure there is no shortage of goods or rise in the cost of essential commodities, according to Majed M. Al-Tahan, co-founder and managing director of Danube Online, the hypermarket chain.

“We have full support from the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Telecommunications and they are dealing with us closely to give whatever support we need to make sure people are getting what they want,” said Al-Tahan in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
He added: “In Danube Online, we are coping with it by scaling our operations every day, we are optimizing the packing, we are optimizing the routes, we are signing up with many delivery aggregators.”
“You can see that across all other platforms the demand is very high; people are trying to get all their deals through online platforms and all the players are trying to fulfill the needs as much as they can,” he said.

Majed M. Al-Tahan, co-founder and MD of Danube Online. (Supplied)


The response from customers was encouraging in the way that they were adapting quickly to online platforms, he said. Government authorities were asking people to stay at home and order through online platforms and delivery agencies as they were exempt from the 3 p.m. curfew measures.
On preparing staff to cope with the situation, Al-Tahan said: “We are continuously training and expanding the fleet.”
“We are having support from the scout groups through the Ministry of Commerce,” he said.
Danube was training staff in various regions throughout the Kingdom in picking and packing foods and other products, given the current fears sparked by the pandemic.
“We are in a very tricky business, we are trying to scale up with quality services and fulfilling safety guidelines,” Al-Tahan said.
“The online shopping experience is fully digital; we have stopped cash on delivery. We have stopped all our printed flyers and promotional materials and also replaced paper invoices with electronic invoices.”
“All these measures are to ease the operations and try to adapt as soon as possible because we don’t have time and need to comply with it,” he said.
Al-Tahan said that the hypermarket chain was dealing with very high demand.
“With Danube Online and the Danube app, in approximately the last 10 days we have seen average daily sales up over 200 percent and average order value up 50 percent compared to the same figures in February 2020.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• People are trying to get all their deals through online platforms and all the players are trying to fulfill the needs as much as they can, says Majed M. Al-Tahan.

• The response from customers was encouraging in the way that they were adapting quickly to online platforms, he says.

• Government authorities were asking people to stay at home and order through online platforms and delivery agencies as they were exempt from the 3 p.m. curfew measures.

Al-Tahan said that the number of app installations had jumped — nearly 400 percent higher compared to February.
“Trends wise, and what we have seen across our Danube Online product category sales (using similar dates as previously mentioned), the absolute top riser is body care, up by 461 percent, tissues and paper towels up by 160 percent, daily essentials up by 145 percent alongside a massive spike in beauty/personal care up by 208 percent and canned food up by 270 percent,” he said.
“Regular foods such as fruit and veggies are up by over 50 percent, dairy products are up by over 80 percent and cleaning and washing products are up by over 120 percent.”
He said that people were not panic buying or stocking up and buying in high quantities. “(They are) doing regular shopping as we see in the consumer’s behavior, having faith in retailers and assurances by the authorities,” he said.
Stocks were fully available, even of imported goods. He attributed the abundance of goods to the preparation people usually make for the holy month of Ramadan.
“This is the Islamic month of Shabaan, ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, so stocks are fully available and people need not to worry about it.”
Prices and stocks are being monitored regularly by the authorities to ensure stability in supplies according to consumer demand, he said.
“The Ministry of Commerce checks out stocks on a daily basis, monitoring the prices as well to ensure there is no spike in prices and shortage of goods,” he said.
Al-Tahan said that stores started online delivery after 3 p.m. due to regular offline shopping before the curfew hours.
Every retailer was committed to providing customers with essential products, he said, adding that the company was working as a partner in the retail business to serve customers, not as a competitor.
“We talk and work closely. We have our WhatsApp group, we do video conferencing and share our challenges to overcome it, and this is all to serve the people best.”