JEDDAH: More than 18 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Interior announced on Friday that, due to a significant nationwide decline in COVID-19 cases and the Kingdom’s high vaccination rates, a number of restrictions will be relaxed from Sunday, October 17.
The new rules will only apply to those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. So far, that includes 20.6 million of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million residents.
The ministry announced that face masks will no longer be mandatory in outdoor settings, except for certain specific locations — including the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, where all visitors and staff must still wear masks. The two mosques will return to full capacity, but visits must be reserved through the Ministry of Health-approved apps Eatmarna and Tawakkalna.
In addition, social distancing will no longer be mandatory at social gatherings or in public settings including transport, restaurants, cinemas, and more. Wedding halls will also be allowed to return full capacity.
However, a number of precautionary measures will remain in place for people outside of their homes, including temperature checks upon entry into establishments and health status checks via the Tawakkalna app. Public and private establishments will still be required to make hand sanitizer widely available.
Social distancing and face masks will still be mandatory in locations where Tawakkalna health status checks are not applied.
The MOH will continue to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases resulting in hospitalization or admittance to ICU, it was announced. If red flags are raised due to the relaxation of rules, then precautionary measures will be re-introduced in cities, governorates, or regions as necessary.
New health and Hajj ministers appointed
Saudi Arabia issued a host of royal decrees on Friday including the appointment of new ministers for the health and Hajj and Umrah portfolios.
Former health minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah has been appointed the new minister of Hajj and Umrah. Fahd Al-Jalajel has been appointed as the Kingdom’s new health minister.
Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Arifi has been relieved of his post as assistant minister of transport and was appointed as an advisor to the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers.
Lt. Gen. Mutlaq bin Salem Al-Azima has been promoted to the rank of general and appointed commander of the joint forces. A new authority for the development of the Saudi cities of Yanbu, Umluj, Al-Wajh, and Duba has been established.