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Saudi Arabia’s Expertise Combatting MERS, Made The Kingdom Well Prepared For Fighting COVID-19

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains one of the best equipped nations for preventing a COVID-19 outbreak.

By: Maha Altamimi

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries that started precautionary and preventive measures to mitigate a COVID-19  outbreak, which ultimately turned into a global pandemic.

The Kingdom’s leadership relied on its experiences in preventing an outbreak of COVID19 because of its experience dealing with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2021. MERS was a respiratory syndrome in the Middle East that had very similar traits to that of COVID-19. That proactive approach made the Kingdom one of the last nations to report a case of COVID-19.

Some of the early measures taken by the Kingdom to prevent an outbreak were the most crucial, which included activating command and control centers, suspending travel to the Republic of China, and suspending entry to the Kingdom with a tourist visa.

After confirming the first case in the Kingdom, immediate precautionary measures were taken to impose social distancing and to mobilize key assets and resources on several fronts to contain, prevent and prepare for the virus with a national approach to combating the pandemic.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia has conducted more than 9 million tests for the COVID-19, and imposed a partial, then total curfew in various regions of the Kingdom.

The results of the Ministry of Health’s Command and Control Center’s due diligence to the level of COVID-19 infection in the Chinese city of Wuhan, was alarming and prompted the Kingdom to activate its emergency readiness protocols. A royal order was issued on January 26, 2020 to form the Supreme Committee that will take all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, which includes all 24 bodies within the government’s membership.

The government has implemented financial stimulus measures to counter the negative impact of the virus on the economy. The measures include guarantees to cover 60% of the income of affected citizens working in the private sector, and has allowed business owners to defer payment of value-added services and income taxes for three months. In addition, all citizens receive free treatment for injuries caused by the virus. The Kingdom also screened random groups of the population for early detection of disease.

The Kingdom established screening centers which included ones that were mobile and allowed for appointments to be booked through the “Sehhaty” application. The app made it easier to reach neighborhoods crowded with citizens, residents and foreigners, regardless of their legal status.

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority “SDAYA” launched the “Tawakkalna” application, to support government efforts to confront the COVID19. Tawakkalna managed the tasks of granting permits electronically during the curfew period for employees in the government and private sector as well as for individuals. 

Tawakkalna was designed to be a hub where all residents of the Kingdom can turn to receive information about matters pertaining to government and COVID-19 such as one’s vaccination status. As the virus continues to evolve, so will the preventative measures of the King of Saudi Arabia.