Mission possible: Saudi Arabia ‘has control over virus spread’

28/12/20

The western region’s first vaccine center is serving 700 beneficiaries a day and operating from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Supplied)
  • Eastern Province to begin inoculations with the opening of first vaccine center in the region

JEDDAH: The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia has fallen by 96.9 percent since a mid-June peak of 4,919, a clear sign that the Kingdom is in control of the outbreak, according to a Health Ministry spokesman.

The past six months have shown a steady decline, with Saudi Arabia recording 154 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
The number of patients in critical care units has also fallen by 83.1 percent since reaching its peak during the summer, while deaths have also decreased by 84.5 percent.
Though overall numbers have seen a significant decline in recent weeks, the ministry’s spokesman, Dr. Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that numbers in some areas have been fluctuating in the past two weeks, with half the Kingdom’s regions seeing a 50 percent rise, most notably in the Eastern Province, Qassim, Hail and Jazan, Northern Borders and Baha regions.
“The fluctuating numbers are not indicators that (the spread) is out of control,” Al-Aly said. “On the contrary, some areas have shown significant declines and any slight increase will make a difference.”
He said that the coronavirus vaccine being distributed in Saudi Arabia will be effective against the mutations now being detected in some areas of the world.
The Kingdom is joining the global community in monitoring the changes around the clock in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

FASTFACT

362k The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 362,220.

“More than 700,000 people in high-risk groups have registered for the vaccine so far,” Al-Aly said.
“The number of registrations is increasing. This is a positive indicator that the community’s awareness level is high and people are playing a responsible role in ensuring the safety of the community.”
Vaccine clinics are set to open in Dammam as Saudi Arabia’s nationwide vaccine program rolls out.
With Sunday’s numbers, 362,220 people have been infected with the virus since March 2, 2020.
There are currently 2,856 active cases, 391 of which are in critical care units.
The Kingdom’s regions are again recording numbers below the 50 case mark, with Riyadh leading with 42 cases, Makkah with 33, Eastern Province with 17, Madinah with 16, and Asir region with 12.
A total of 175 new recoveries were also reported, raising the overall number to 353,179. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is currently 97.5 percent.
Nine new fatalities were reported, raising the death toll from complications due to the COVID-19 infection to 6,185.
More than 10.87 million polymerase chain reaction tests have been conducted in Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi Arabia kept COVID-19 at bay

Time: 23 September 2020

An aerial view shows deserted streets in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on April 21, 2020, as the message “stay home” in Arabic is displayed on a tower during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (Photo by Bandar al-DANDANI / AFP)
Saudi Arabia managed to keep the enemy from its soil for two months, buying precious time to build up its defenses. (AFP)
  • From its peak in June, Saudi Arabia’s daily new cases have dropped below 500

LONDON: At the height of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, June 17 passed unremarked on, as just another day in Saudi Arabia’s hard-fought battle against the worst public health crisis the country has ever seen.

In future, however, June 17 might be seen as an appropriate date for the people of Saudi Arabia to remember their nation’s epic battle against the microscopic enemy that brought the world to its knees — for that was the day the number of daily new cases in the Kingdom peaked.

At the time, the day’s tally of 4,919 cases seemed daunting. In fact, the tide of battle had turned in favor of the Kingdom. After that, slowly but steadily the number began to drop. From its first case on March 2, Saudi Arabia had broken the back of the pandemic in just 107 days.

COVID-19 emerged in China in early January, spreading rapidly around the world, but Saudi Arabia managed to keep the enemy from its soil for two months, buying precious time to build up its defences.

“We were luckier than many other countries because our cases started a little bit later,” said Dr. Hani Jokhdar, deputy minister for public health, speaking in August at the Riyadh Global Digital Health Summit. “This gave us a small opportunity to develop our systems, watching and observing what was happening in the rest of the world.”

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries in the world to set up laboratories to test for the coronavirus, with tests available for anyone with symptoms from March 5 onward. Over the next five months more than five million would be carried out.

‘We witness the fruits of our labor today.’

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly

In February, travel to and from infected countries was quickly curtailed, culminating in a ban on all international flights by March 15. Restrictions on internal travel followed shortly after.

And on Feb. 27, Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented but necessary step of suspending Umrah visas for foreign pilgrims. The Kingdom would also take the lead in closing mosques.

Saudi Arabia’s defences were finally breached on March 2, thanks to two citizens who had returned home infected from Bahrain, neglecting to mention that their journeys had begun in Iran, a country already in the grip of the disease.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia, the last of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states to be hit by the virus, was better prepared than many countries for what was coming. A raft of apps — some established, others developed quickly in the face of the new disease — allowed citizens and residents to report symptoms, book virtual appointments and access testing.

Such technology would also play a vital role in the management of Hajj. As the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, from the outset Saudi Arabia was keenly aware of the consequences for itself, the region and the entire planet if it failed to manage the pilgrimage effectively.

This year the decision was taken to limit numbers to a symbolic 1,000, selected from nationals and foreigners already in the country. Careful screening, monitoring and meticulous management ensured that, in this remarkable year, Hajj passed off without a single case of COVID-19.

Throughout, Saudi Arabia’s battle against the virus has been led from the very top. On March 19, King Salman addressed the nation on television. The Kingdom, he said, “continues to take all precautionary measures to confront this pandemic and limit its effects. We depend on the aid of God Almighty, then on deploying our full capabilities, supported by your strong determination to face adversity with the steadfastness of believers at the forefront.”

Key Dates

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    Saudi Arabia launches a public information campaign on Jan. 28, holds the first meeting of the COVID-19 Follow-Up Committee on Feb. 1, and bans travel to China on Feb. 6.

    Timeline Image Jan. 28-Feb. 6

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    Timeline Image March 2

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    Timeline Image March 4

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    Timeline Image March 8

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    Timeline Image March 15

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    Timeline Image March 23

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    Timeline Image March 26

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    Timeline Image April 6

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    Timeline Image May 13

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    Timeline Image June 17

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    Timeline Image July 29-31

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    Timeline Image Aug. 9

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the world is out of the woods yet. But as the global daily tally of cases continues to rise, hitting a record high of over 316,000 on Sept. 11, for a total of 31.2 million cases and 965,372 deaths, so Saudi Arabia’s daily caseload continues to shrink, even as restrictions have been relaxed and life in the country has begun to return to normal.

On Sunday, the number of daily new cases dropped below 500 for the first time in five months. As Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said: “We witness the fruits of our labor today.” The “huge improvement,” he added, was thanks to “everyone’s efforts.”

Let there be no doubt that, with a total of 329,271 cases and 4,458 deaths recorded by Sunday, Saudi Arabia has suffered in 2020.

But one has only to look at how badly many other states have fared — including some of the most powerful and advanced countries in the world — to realize just how much worse this terrible year might have been for the Kingdom, were it not for its preparations and timely and decisive actions.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi doctors fight COVID-19 abroad

Time: 23 September 2020

A woman wearing a protective facemask walks past a paste-up by French street artist Ardif in Paris, depicting a Marianne and a member of the medical staff as a tribute to thank the caregivers, on May 15, 2020, as France eases the lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19, (the novel coronavirus). (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION – TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION
Many of the more than 6,000 Saudi doctors across 41 countries on medical fellowship programs abroad continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (Supplied)
  • Many of the more than 6,000 Saudi doctors in medical fellowship programs abroad are fighting COVID-19 in 41 countries

MAKKAH: Many of the more than 6,000 Saudi doctors across 41 countries on medical fellowship programs abroad continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, doing their diligent duty to help people across the globe.

These doctors have shown dexterity in combating the coronavirus pandemic alongside colleagues from their host countries. A substantial number of those Saudi doctors refuse to leave despite the dangers, remaining in the countries where they are studying to help their fellow colleagues in the battle.

Dr. Abdullah Boqays, a fellow working as a dermatologist in cancer hospitals in Toulouse, France, told Arab News that 2020 has been a frightening year for many medical care workers.

“Doctors with various specialties have fought competently since the start of the pandemic, especially the ones dealing directly with infected patients, not only while working in hospitals, which make them more vulnerable than others in terms of infection, but also while dealing with patients who suffer from a weakened immune system,” he said.

Dr. Boqays told Arab News that the staff in his department of skin tumor and dermatology have had to deal with a number of follow-ups and consultations with visiting skin cancer patients, many of whom are at advanced stages of the disease or have weakened immune systems due to chemotherapy or immunosuppressants.

Tumor-removal surgeries have continued despite the pandemic, Dr. Baqis said. “The work environment, as well as behavioral and ethical practices, obliges us to continue the treatment, regardless of the reasons and methods used. Delaying chemotherapy drugs, administering  immunosuppressants or not performing curative surgeries might have disastrous consequences on the patients. We rely on God first, take the necessary precautionary measures to meet the demands of patients, support them and alleviate their pain,” he said.

“Even though we are far from our precious country, we are at peace because our wise government — under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — supports us and cares for Saudis abroad,” Dr. Boqays said

Abdullah Modhayan, a psychiatric resident at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, has been in Sweden since 2015. “There are more than 50 Saudi doctors on a medical fellowship program in Sweden, working in various medical specialties in different cities, and most of them were on the frontline in the Swedish health system,” he said.

“Some of my colleagues on a medical fellowship program were infected with COVID-19, and quickly returned to their positions to help their colleagues in the Swedish health sector after they’d recovered. It is noteworthy to mention that the work achieved by Saudi doctors in Sweden was and still is appreciated here.”

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19

How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world.

Sweden made headlines for its soft strategy in combatting the pandemic: The government did not close down shops, restaurants or cafés, and did not impose a quarantine for its citizens and residents.

“This decision had major consequences at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden,” Dr. Modhayan said. “The mortality rate was one of the highest in Europe, which was difficult on the health sector and its status amid a real challenge. Saudi doctors played an efficient role in the face of this challenge here.”

During the pandemic, Dr. Modhayan has been working in the psychiatric emergency department. He noted the psychological effect on individuals, most notably on those who lost loved ones to the coronavirus. “Providing psychological support and treatment for those who need it is very important, especially in such difficult circumstances,” he said.

Dr. Abdulghani Khogeer, a nephrologist surgeon (specializing in kidney and urinary tract diseases), has been living in France for the past seven years as part of a Saudi-French fellowship program and has seen firsthand the disastrous effect the pandemic had on France.

“Similar to other countries, France fought the coronavirus vigorously in the beginning, which required suspending non-urgent medical activities. This had a major effect on the workflow, as we followed remote procedures at clinics, canceled non-urgent operations, rescheduled surgeries, canceled clinics and followed other procedures. That required our constant presence and readiness to help in departments combating the virus such as the emergency department, performing many necessary surgeries during that time.”

Dr. Khogeer is grateful to the Kingdom’s embassy for its support and constant communication during this critical period. “I pray to God to protect us and help us return to our country safely, in order to serve it with all our learning and knowledge,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia backs UN’s coronavirus response plan with $100 million

20/09/20

During a virtual meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, announced the Kingdom’s donation of US$100 million to support the International Response Plan to coronavirus pandemic. (Twitter/@ksamissionun)
  • Kingdom’s donation will support UN’s International Response Plan to coronavirus pandemic
  • Guterres thanked Saudi Arabia for its generous and continuous support to UN

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said Friday it was donating $100 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) and toward a number of projects in support of a United Nations response plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement was made by the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, during a virtual event with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Saudi Press Agency reported.
“The International Response Plan to coronavirus pandemic, the WHO and other UN agencies will benefit from this Saudi donation,” Al-Mouallimi tweeted following the meeting.

Earlier, Al-Mouallimi said that “this support comes within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s international efforts in support of the response to combating the coronavirus, and awareness of the importance of cooperation, solidarity and collective and international action to foster a transparent, robust, coordinated and wide-ranging global response.”
He said the Kingdom was carrying out “the role it has been entrusted with toward multilateralism, collective and international action in order to confront the COVID-19 pandemic,” adding that Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries “to extend a hand of aid and coordination” with countries affected by the spread of the virus.
Al-Mouallimi said that the Kingdom is working to enable the UN to lead international action to intensify global efforts to combat coronavirus, and to enhance support for developing countries and the most vulnerable regions in fighting this pandemic.
In particular, he mentioned assisting refugees, raising the standards of living among the world’s poorest groups, developing fragile economies, mediating an end to conflicts, and building more harmonious relationships between nations.
Guterres thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the Kingdom’s generous and continuous support to the organization, saying that Saudi Arabia worked in partnership with the UN to support security, stability and prosperity in all parts of the world, especially in Yemen.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia conducts 60k PCR tests daily in fight against COVID-19

08/07/20

So far, over 2 million PCR tests have been conducted in the Kingdom. (AFP)

  • The death toll in the Kingdom stands at 2,017, with 49 new fatalities

JEDDAH: Saudi health authorities are conducting 60,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests daily in a bid to check the spread of COVID-19, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
So far, over 2 million PCR tests have been conducted in the Kingdom, indicating the efficiency of its health-care system, he added.
Jalal Al-Owais, supervisor general of the ministry’s Emergency, Disasters and Ambulatory Transportation General Department, said: “One of the directives given by our leadership was to increase the number of hospital beds in critical care units. In only three months, capacity has risen by 30 percent. This shows the Kingdom’s great care and attention to its people’s health and safety.” Timely action helped health facilities cope with the number of patients effectively, he added.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia recorded 3,392 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 217,108. A total of 60,252 cases are active, of which 2,268 are in critical condition.
With 5,205 new recoveries, the total number of people having recovered from COVID-19 has reached 154, 839. The death toll in the Kingdom stands at 2,017, with 49 new fatalities.

This article was first published in Arab News

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