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JEDDAH/RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Health has ended its press conferences on COVID-19, after the country lifted most precautionary and preventive measures related to the fight against the coronavirus.
During the final press conference, Health Ministry Spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly and Interior Ministry Spokesperson Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub thanked all those who had been involved in organizing the briefings over the past two years, as well as the media. and the general public for their awareness and compliance with precautionary measures to fight the pandemic.
“The Kingdom has almost completely overcome the pandemic, thanks to the expansion of the vaccination campaign and the improvement of community outreach programs,” Al-Aly said at the press conference.
From March 22, 2020, at the start of the pandemic in the Kingdom and in a time of uncertainty and fear, people across the country tuned into ministerial press conferences to learn about the virus and reassure themselves from experts on the measures the government was taking during the global health emergency.
Nearly two years later, there have been 225 press conferences featuring different government departments and agencies.
They included the ministries of interior and education, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority and the Public Health Authority. Together, they guided the public on the steps needed to fight the pandemic.
Taiseer Almofarej, executive director of corporate communications and outreach at the SFDA, said every step he took part in was a response to what was happening at the time.
“At the beginning, we felt a responsibility during the slogan we are all responsible, then an anticipation during the return phase (to normal life) with caution, and a motivation during the deployment of the vaccine,” Almofarej told Arab. News.
Education Ministry spokesman Ibtisam Al-Shehri said the COVID-19 crisis was difficult for everyone, and even more so for the millions of students and hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country. Kingdom due to the uncertainty caused by school closures and ignorance of new teaching methods.
She recalled the scenes of empty schools and classrooms after in-person attendance was suspended, but also the efforts that were made to reach pupils during the lockdown.
“I felt proud to be part of the working team which, with the support of rational leadership and the follow-up of the Minister of Education, made great efforts to continue the process of study and education students and not stop it for a single day,” she told Arab News.
Al-Shehri, who is the first Saudi woman to be an official spokesperson for a government agency, said that while social relations were affected during the pandemic due to precautionary measures, people were able to adapt to the new conditions.
“We are eagerly returning to normal life,” she added, expressing her joy that the crisis was over.
Saad Al-Hammad had permission to travel during the curfew period due to the nature of his job as a spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, and he recalled that the streets of Riyadh were almost empty of pedestrians, cars and activity.
“It made me constantly think about the human condition and about life,” he told Arab News.
He said he was happy with the drop in the number of COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia and the way life was returning to normal.
Al-Hammad, who also writes for the online newspaper Sabq, said: “The pandemic may have drawn new patterns of relationships and human communication, but it has not shaken our bond with our loved ones, loved ones and our friends.
Sultan Al-Qahtani, spokesman for the Saudi Housing Program, said his routine had “really changed” since Sunday.
He also said the lessons learned during the pandemic were useful and had benefits, adding that having to communicate remotely for long periods of time put him in several difficult situations.
“Remote communication is a form of communication, but sometimes, especially on sensitive or complex topics, for example, you may need to communicate with others face to face.”
The Ministry of Health press conference was broadcast daily at the start of the pandemic in 2020. It then increased to three times a week and finally took place once a week.
Al-Aly said that the ministry will continue to provide important information and developments related to the pandemic and that a press conference will only be held if necessary or if new developments occur.
The ministry also stopped sharing daily news through the Saudi Press Agency.
“The publication of daily statistical reports on coronavirus cases will also be suspended. However, the data will be available for experts and specialists on the ministry’s official website,” the spokesperson said.
The precautionary measures lifted include all social distancing measures, including the removal of social distancing in the Two Holy Mosques. Wearing a mask outside is no longer mandatory.
Saudi Arabia will no longer require travelers to undergo a mandatory COVID-19 quarantine upon arrival in the Kingdom. Passengers will also no longer need to provide a PCR test upon arrival.
But all arrivals to the Kingdom on visit visas of any kind are required to carry insurance to cover the cost of treatment for any coronavirus infection.
Wearing masks indoors is still mandatory and people will still need to show their immunity status on the Tawakkalna app to enter commercial establishments such as hotels and restaurants.
“Feelings of pride outweigh any other feelings, and we have every right to be proud of what Saudi Arabia has provided during the pandemic at all health, social, humanitarian and economic levels, as these efforts have been a model of professional crisis management around the world,” Almofarej said.