The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia succeeded in confronting the new Corona pandemic, as it was one of the first countries to sense the danger of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and one of the first countries that took precautionary measures and dealt with this epidemic with full transparency and seriousness to protect humanity and people, whether at the local or global level.
The Kingdom has taken the necessary measures that were extremely serious to confront the repercussions of the Corona pandemic, and it carried out an early response to these repercussions on February 27, by suspending the arrival of pilgrims to the Two Holy Mosques – a measure praised by the World Health Organization – and then it prevented entry to and exit from Qatif Governorate after discovering eleven cases of coronavirus infection, in a step by the Kingdom that preceded all regional countries.
Saudi Arabia also hastened to implement the steps of closure, social distancing, and the suspension of official and community activities, as it imposed a complete or partial ban throughout the country as required by the situation, and studies were suspended in all stages of education, as well as suspending work in all governmental institutions and the private sector, imposing a mechanism for studying and working remotely, as well as closing mosques, theaters, cinemas, commercial centers, and restaurants and preventing gatherings in other public places, in addition to stopping domestic and international flights and not allowing residents to return to the Kingdom except after the end of the Corona crisis.
On the other hand, the Kingdom faced the negative effects imposed by the pandemic on the state’s economy, citizens and companies, and it pledged to reform all of this through financial support packages amounting to 177 billion riyals ($47 billion), a commitment to pay 60% of the salaries of Saudi employees in the private sector, and raising its debt ceiling to equal half of its gross domestic income.
The steps taken by the Kingdom coincided with the measures taken by most countries of the world in the face of the health disaster, including reducing government spending, operating exceptional trips to repatriate its citizens stranded in other countries, and providing financial packages amounting to hundreds of billions of riyals to stimulate and support the economy, whether by restructuring debts, providing financing to workers who have lost their jobs, or paying the wages of private-sector workers for three months, as well as supporting the private sector by allowing employers to postpone paying taxes and canceling some government fees, feeding the health sector with all its needs, and importing food to cover the needs of citizens and residents, in addition to dozens of other measures taken by the Kingdom to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on people.
On the humanitarian level, the Kingdom provided $10 million in material support to the World Health Organization and contributed $500 million to international relief efforts, in addition to donating medical equipment to some countries suffering most from the effects of the pandemic. Also amid these repercussions, the Saudi Arabia has not forgotten its duty towards the Palestinian people, as it provided an amount of ten million riyals ($2.66 million) to help Palestinians cope with the effects of the pandemic.
The Kingdom was unique in facing the pandemic, as it provided completely free treatment to its citizens, as well as to any resident on its land, even if it was contrary to the official residence regulations, while approximately 3,500 school facilities were converted into temporary housing units for expatriate workers to prevent overcrowding. King Salman bin Abdulaziz pledged to provide everyone, both citizens and residents, with medicines, food and life necessities during the crisis. The Kingdom also concluded a contract with the Chinese GBI Group worth one billion riyals ($265 million) to conduct 9 million medical tests, establish six technical laboratories, and provide 500 experts and technicians specialized in this field. The examinations, conducted until May 19, reached more than 618,000 examinations for all groups most vulnerable to the pandemic.
The pandemic did not stop the Kingdom from fulfilling its role in leading the G20 in its current session. Saudi Arabia hastened to hold a remote conference for the leaders of the group headed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and the conference resulted in several decisions, the most important of which are the group’s countries having pledged $7 trillion to support the global economy, which is struggling due to the pandemic, the establishment of a fund to finance the fight against the pandemic, and the suspension of payment of debts owed by developing countries.
The Kingdom also held a meeting of energy ministers for the OPEC group to stabilize energy markets so as not to be affected by the Corona pandemic, and an exceptional meeting was held between ministers of OPEC member states and producing countries outside the organization to restore balance to oil markets globally.
The Kingdom also had a role in presiding over the Executive Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which highlighted the health, financial and economic monitoring and precautionary measures taken by Saudi Arabia from the beginning of the outbreak of this pandemic, by launching comprehensive packages of urgent initiatives and exceptional incentives.
With its accumulated experience and dedication to its successes in the Hajj seasons every year, Saudi Arabia was able to implement a plan for the exceptional Hajj season 1441 AH by conducting the Hajj in very limited numbers, examining all participants in the performance of the Hajj, and providing all preventive and precautionary measures. It was keen to achieve physical distancing and subjecting all participants to home isolation before the start of the Hajj rituals and after their completion, in addition to providing the necessary health services during the days of Hajj. A maximum of 20 pilgrims was instituted for each bus, along with providing field hospitals and mobile clinics in the holy sites and inside Mecca and Medina, in addition to providing corona bracelets for all pilgrims to monitor home isolation before and after the Hajj. The Kingdom also provided support and counseling services in 13 languages and equipped 140 health volunteers in preparation for their distribution to the main points of the Hajj.