Saudi ministry allocates $4.5 billion to cushion impact of COVID-19 crisis on workers

FILE PHOTO: Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, state minister for Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry, left, listens as Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy and industry minister, speaks to reporters ahead of the 176th Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, July 1, 2019. The OPEC+ alliance is poised to extend production cuts into 2020 as the world’s leading oil exporters fret about a weakening outlook for global demand growth and the relentless rise in output from America’s shale fields. Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg

JEDDAH (RAHNUMA) The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has allocated SR17 billion ($4.5 billion) to deal with the economic and jobs fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Nasser bin Abdulrahman Al-Hazani, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said that the outlay was in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to contain the outbreak while supporting the private sector, economic growth and employment.

Under new ministry rules, expat workers whose residency permits (iqama) expire before June 30 will be exempt from financial fees and their permits extended for three months, he said.

Al-Hazani said that under the Saudi labor system employees cannot be forced to take unpaid leave without their consent.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that 157 new coronavirus cases have been recorded in the Kingdom. It also said that 99 people have recovered from the virus — the highest number since the beginning of the outbreak — bringing the total number to have recovered to 264.

The total number of confirmed cases in Saudi Arabia reached 1,720, with most new cases divided between Madinah with 78 and Makkah with 55.

The ministry said that another six people have died from the virus, bringing the total to 16, five of whom were non-Saudis.

“We notice a significant decline in travel-related cases due to the precautionary measures taken by the ministry and other governmental entities,” Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said. “We announced one case only today and soon we won’t have any more cases related to travel.”

Al-Aly said that Saudi Arabia’s efforts to control the crisis mean it is one of only a few countries in the world able to control the virus outbreak.

The Saudi Interior Ministry has urged people to stay home even outside curfew hours.

“Many people are rushing to shopping centers and malls as soon as the curfew period is over,” Sami Al-Shuwairikh, spokesman for the Saudi General Directorate of Public Security, said. “We emphasize that leaving the house during open hours should only be for necessary needs.”

The directorate received 37,000 special requests regarding transportation and humanitarian cases in the past two days.

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