| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

Saudi Arabia: Buffets and Ramadan tents are off this year as weekly PCR tests are in for service staff

Daily coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia rose above 500 for the first time since October this weekend, with the Health Ministry blaming the growing number of gatherings and laxity in complying with preventive measures.

The kingdom recorded 510 new infections on Friday and 502 on Saturday to take its total tally to 387,794 cases with 6,643 deaths. More than 200 of the cases were in the capital Riyadh.

The kingdom had seen daily infections fall to below 100 in January from a peak of more than 4,000 in June.

Authorities last week expanded Covid-19 regulations with new measures to come into force on May 13 – after the end of Ramadan.

All residents and citizens over the age of 16 can now be vaccinated as the kingdom wants to have given doses to at least 70 per cent of the population before the end of the year.

Starting from mid-May, unvaccinated workers at food outlets, public transport, gyms and salons would be required to take a PCR test every week.

All unvaccinated staff at tourist accommodation in the kingdom will be included in undertaking mandatory PCR tests every week.

Authorities have also begun laying out Covid-19 rules in Saudi Arabia for Ramadan, which is expected to begin on April 12.

The Tourism Ministry has banned buffet services at all restaurants and hotels as are Ramadan tents, set up to provide meals and social gatherings during the month.

“As much as we will miss the Ramadan tents and buffet Iftar experiences, it could be the worst thing for us right now looking at the rising number of cases. I am proud of the government’s efforts to stabilise the numbers and giving us easy and free access to vaccines,” said Saba Jamal, a Canadian resident living in Saudi Arabia.

At least 347 of the 364 mosques shut over the last 46 days for sterilisation have now reopened but the Islamic Affairs Ministry said sermons will be limited to 10 minutes.

The Health Ministry said last week that more than 3.5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been administered through 500 vaccine centres across the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia in January postponed the end of a ban on travel for its citizens and full reopening of entry points to May 17.

In February, it suspended entry for non-citizens from 20 states with the exception of diplomats and medical practitioners.