Tuesday, December 7, 2021

COVID-19: Saudi Arabia’s cases could reach 200,000 in coming weeks – Health Minister

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Minister of Health, Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, said that coronavirus cases in the Kingdom could reach between 10,000 and 200,000 in the next few weeks, Saudi Gazette reported.

He also warned a section of people in the society who are not serious about adhering to the instructions and advisories issued by the authorities in order to combat the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

“Let me speak to you with all the transparency, albeit painful, that unfortunately, some members of society failed to implement the slogan “We are all responsible.”

“These people are neither dealing with the epidemic with the adequate seriousness nor adhering to the warnings issued with regard to avoiding mixing with people and gatherings,” he said.

Speaking to the Saudi Press Agency, Mr Al-Rabiah emphasized that chances of a high number of infections in the next phase depend primarily on the cooperation of all and their commitment to guidelines and directives issued by the authorities.

“Out of the principle of transparency that we are committed to, I share with you the results of four different studies carried out by Saudi and international experts, who are specialized in the field of epidemics.

“These studies expected that the number of coronavirus cases over the next few weeks would reach between a minimum of 10,000 and a maximum of 200,000,” he said.

“There is no doubt that our commitment to instructions and procedures in its entirety reduces the number of cases to the minimum, while non-compliance will lead to a huge increase in the number of cases,” he stressed.

Mr Al-Rabiah drew attention to the words of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman during his recent address to the nation in which he warned that “the next phase will be more difficult at the global level.”

The minister underlined the need for exerting unprecedented efforts and measures to combat the pandemic.

“In spite of the rapid spread of this pandemic across the world, our leadership has proved as a global pioneer in taking strict precautionary measures before many countries of the world started taking any preventive measures.

“Perhaps the most important of these measures was the decision to suspend Umrah pilgrimage and prayers in mosques as well as halting of both domestic and international flights in addition to the suspension of studies and work at offices in public and private sectors,” he said.

The minister emphasized that all these procedures had been worked out with the aim of reducing people to people contact by 90 percent.

“The State also dealt with this crisis with utmost transparency and clarity so that the citizens are aware of the latest developments.”

Referring to the lack of seriousness on the part of a section of the society in complying with the coronavirus related precautionary and preventive measures, Mr Al-Rabiah said: “All of you have witnessed such practices and behaviors in the past days by some people and this indicates that we need to take other measures to protect us and the society from these people, as we face a decisive moment today which calls for raising our sensibility in order to be a responsible society.”

“All members of the society have to contribute with decisiveness and determination to stop the spread of this pandemic. Otherwise the number of cases in the coming days is not decreasing, but would be increasing constantly.”

The minister noted that the royal decree to impose curfew in the evening was taken at the request of the Ministry of Health in an effort to reduce people’s movement and bring down their gatherings to the minimum.

“However studies have showed that the rate of traffic during 24 hours is still very high as it is now 46 percent of the total traffic during normal days and this does not serve the required goal, and hence a total curfew was implemented in several cities and governorates,” he said.

Dr. Al-Rabiah appreciated the role of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in the allocation of more funds to tackle with the coronavirus crisis.

He said that a total of SR15 billion has already been sanctioned for this. Apart from the allocation of SR8 billion in the beginning of the outbreak of coronavirus, another SR7 billion has been allocated on Monday, he said.

“This will further boost the health sector’s readiness to secure medicine, to arrange additional beds, to buy medical devices and required health supplies such as artificial respirators and exploratory testing devices and samples, as well as to hire the necessary medical and technical staff from within and abroad,” he said.

Mr Al-Rabiah added that approval has also been accorded for another SR32 billion after the ministry’s submission of proposals for the spending until the end of the current fiscal year.

The minister explained that despite the unlimited support from the State to combat this pandemic, there are two main problems facing the health authorities.

“First is the lack of sufficient supplies of devices and medical supplies in the global markets in order to meet all future needs in the event of high number of cases.

“Secondly, the negligence on the part of some members of society in adhering strictly to the precautionary measures,” he said while warning that these may lead to infection cases rising to a level the health sector cannot handle.

The minister urged citizens and expatriates to help the government in implementing the required procedures with complete accuracy and the utmost responsibility.

“Thus we do not reach a very advanced stage in terms of increasing the number of cases as happened in a number of countries, so as to restrict the number of cases and control the epidemic in the current preparedness for a period of four months to a year.”

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