MOH News
COVID-19 Follow-up Committee Reiterates Importance of Staying at Home
15 April 2020

​On Wednesday morning, the COVID-19 Monitoring Committee held its 56th meeting. Chaired by the Minister of Health, Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah, the meeting was attended by the committee members, who represent the relevant government agencies. During the meeting, all relevant COVID-19 updates and reports were reviewed.​

The committee has discussed the epidemiological situation globally and the cases reported locally, as well as checking for their health condition. All precautionary measures carried out at the points of entry into the Kingdom will continue in full, the committee stressed, and will be further augmented, with a view to combating the virus, and curbing its spread. Hence, the committee commended everyone's compliance with the curfew order, and called on them to stay at home, and never go out except when absolutely necessary. 

The meeting was followed by a joint press conference, the participants in which included Dr. Muhammad Al-Abdulaali, Assistant Minister of Health and MOH spokesman, Mr. Tayseer Al-Mufrej, Communication Executive Director at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and Mr. Fahad Al-Otaibi, spokesman of the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation.

The MOH spokesman mentioned that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has amounted to over 2 million cases, of which 500,000 cases have recovered to date. As for the COVID-19 death toll, it has jumped to 127,000.

 In the Kingdom, Al-Abdulaali added, 493 new cases have been reported. He pointed out that these new cases were recorded in the following cities: 109 cases in Madinah, 86 in Hofuf, 84 in Dammam, 69 in Jeddah, 56 in Riyadh, 40 in Makkah, 9 in Taif, 6 in Al-Jubail, Al-Mekhwah and Khulais, 5 in Arar, 4 in Yanbu and Al-Qatif, 2 in Al-Baha and Ras-Tannoura, and 1 case in Al-Zulfi, Al-Khobar, Al-Dhahran, Al-Qurai, and Al-Muzeilef.

This brings the total cases tested positive for COVID-19 in the Kingdom up to 5,862 cases, including 4,852 active cases receiving medical care, and their health condition is mostly stable. The number of critical cases is 72 cases. Whereas 42 new recoveries were reported, bringing the total recoveries to 931. Additionally, 6 new deaths have been reported, bringing the total deaths to 79. Out of the new deaths, 2 cases are Saudi citizens in Madinah, aged 70 and 72 years old, one 67-year-old Saudi citizen in Makkah, and 3 non-Saudi residents in Makkah, aged 35-57 years old. They all suffered from health conditions and chronic diseases. 

Dr. Al-Abdulaali reiterated the importance of staying at home, and adhering to the health measures necessary for our health, as well as the health of those around us. There are certain measures that are crucial for our physical and mental health and well-being while staying at home.
The MOH spokesman stressed that anyone who develops symptoms, or is willing to get medical advice, can use the self-assessment application ‘Mawid’, or call 937 which works around the clock. 

Dr. Al-Abdulaali stressed that this is a precious time that must be invested in a useful way. He advised everyone to strengthen social relations with families and friends while maintaining social distancing. 
He also called upon parents to give special attention to children to ease their anxiety, tension, and fear. These negative emotions may result from the intake of news and information about the virus and the concerns they see their parents have. Dealing properly with these fears could happen through time management, entertainment, playing games, productive fun, sports, and education.

Dr. Al-Abdulaali also noted that it is important to give special attention to the elderly during this time by showing them respect and appreciation. Even though the elderly understand our social distancing, we must assure them that this only stems from caring for them and their health. Those who look after the elderly must maintain proper distance when dealing with them, taking into consideration healthy behaviors. During this time, it is important to eat healthy food, do sports, and get enough rest and sleep. Furthermore, it is important to keep practicing useful habits, such as reading. These practices help us make the best out of the time we spend at home. It also keeps communication consistent among individuals. This is a good time to try remote learning and gaining skills and expertise, as well.   
He also stressed the need to obtain information from reliable sources and ignore the rumors on social media, which could cause anxiety and tension.  

For his part, the Executive Director of Communication and Awareness at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), Tayseer Al-Mufrej, said that the number of local sterilizer factories in the Kingdom reached 49, instead of 13, at the beginning of March. These factories produce more than 1,673,000 liters of sterilizer per week. The number of face mask factories in the Kingdom is eight. They produce more than 3,700,000 masks in one week. Sterilizers available in warehouses and pharmacies exceeded 2.5 million packages, in addition to more than 20 million face masks of all kinds currently available in factories and warehouses.

Al-Mufrej added that citizens can learn about the places where sterilizers and masks are available through SFDA’s mobile application “Tameny” or its website. The application also provides citizens with the ability to reach reference pharmacies, which provide a range of drugs that may be unavailable in other pharmacies. Both the application and the website include over 1,000 pharmacies. Once your location is determined (by city or neighborhood), information about the nearest pharmacy is provided. This saves time in terms of ordering medicines and protection tools.

Al-Mufrej stated that SFDA announced earlier this week that it approved conducting clinical studies. He defined these studies as part of medical research based on strict criteria. They aim to discover new methods of disease prevention and treatment. These studies also ensure that medicines are safe and properly do fulfill their functions. The stages of these studies are supervised by SFDA to ensure the safety of the participants. Furthermore, SFDA’s supervision ensures the accuracy of the data. It also ensures that researchers and preventive authorities adhere to quality standards and protocols.

Al-Mafraq discussed workplace inspections and establishing databases for these studies. He also highlighted the urgent approval issued last week to conduct a global research project. It involves providing additional treatments for novel Coronavirus patients receiving optimal care. These studies are implemented by MOH with the joint sponsorship of WHO and various government health agencies inside the Kingdom. They aim to obtain reliable data on the antivirals of these viruses. They also aim to determine the extent of the success of these antivirals in resisting the virus within patients’ bodies.

SFDA works in partnership with many government health agencies and the private sector to promote medicine security initiatives. These initiatives ensure the availability of medicines, vaccines, and treatments in large quantities at pharmacies and health facilities. Other initiatives include providing raw materials for industries, supporting factories, and promoting the local pharmaceutical industry across all pharmaceutical factories in KSA. They also include extending the validity of pharmaceutical products. This happens under international medical standards in the field of drug safety.

These initiatives aim to ensure the availability of drugs. SFDA and health agencies closely watch drugs from the moment they enter KSA in the case of their importation. They also supervise them from the moment they are made in local factories until they leave the country and reach their point of sale. Throughout all of these stages, the drugs are tracked with their registration numbers according to an accurate system. This system is supervised by the SFDA, so any shortage across the Kingdom can be detected and directly addressed.
 
Regarding movement permits during curfew hours for the companies subject to SFDA's control, Al-Mafraq explained that the authority has provided an electronic platform to print documents after inspection. It verifies that these companies do exist and have commercial registers. This can be done by accessing the link on SFDA’s website. Scenes are printed electronically then documented by the Ministry of Interior through the police stations across KSA.
Saudi Arabia has a sufficient stock of drugs for chronic diseases. Supply operations continue as planned before the crises, Al-Mufrej said. 

The number of reports received through “Tameny” application and other e-channels of the authority since the beginning of March until today reached 50,000. The reports included inquiries and requests of companies and other bodies. Responding to these reports takes a time frame of one hour up to 24 hours, based on the submitted report.

SFDA works in integration with the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, the secretariats in regions, and MOH. This integration aims to ensure the success of the control and inspection operations of warehouses, stockrooms, and points of sale of all medical products.

For his part, Fahd Al-Otaibi, the spokesman of the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), said that the corporation receives great support from the government. “Thankfully, the support we receive has given us an outstanding infrastructure in the field of e-training. This has enabled us to overcome the challenges we faced over the past period, especially after the decision to suspend training in the corporation’s colleges and institutes on the 8th of March,” he added. 

 Following the announcement of the decision, a Supreme Committee was formed. It was headed by HE the Governor of TVTC, Dr. Ahmed bin Fahd Al-Fehaid, and members of relevant departments. Its purpose was to quickly activate e-training programs through the general department of e-training at TVTC. This also ensures that the training process for over 200,000 trainees continues across all regions of the Kingdom through several e-platforms. The transition period from traditional to electronic training took only one day.

Additionally, several sub-committees were formed to follow up on the implementation of all precautionary health directives in the field of health and safety. They ensure that these directives are applied to the staff of TVTC and its clients. Moreover, they make sure all remote customer service expansions are done as required and that the communications department is governed and activated.
In a press conference, Fahad Al-Otaibi reviewed the efforts made by TVTC during the crisis to combat the spread of the novel Coronavirus. He said that e-training included all trainees in over 200 colleges and institutes in all KSA regions. The number of remote training beneficiaries reached 200,000 per day. The number of electronic sessions created reached 119,000. Moreover, hours of lectures broadcast reached 621,000. Additionally, nearly 52,000 seminars were implemented per day. TVTC has provided internet services and laptops for several trainees after they had applied for them. This mainly aimed to facilitate remote training for them. 

The rate of interaction between trainers and trainees during the past period in boys ’colleges reached 94% and 98% in girls’ colleges. Al-Otaibi explained that TVTC’s announcement of the final evaluation mechanism aimed to organize this training semester. The grades allocated to classwork for a training course were approved to increase to 80 of the total college grades. As for the final evaluation, 20 grades were allocated. TVTC has also activated remote work in all central departments, colleges, and institutes. Besides, all TVTC employees were trained to use digital applications in cooperation with Microsoft and Cisco.  

“To support the private training sector, 426 private training facilities were authorized to practice remote training. Community institutes and centers’ licenses were directed to be extended (if a renewal was needed). The extension would be for three months. Furthermore, coordination has taken place with a group of private institutes to provide free remote training courses to all citizens and give them attendance certificates," Al-Otaibi said. 

In terms of cooperation with MOH, Al-Otaibi noted that TVTC is a member of the executive committee of the volunteering plan in the health sector. The committee has worked to support the ministry's efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. It has put 134 training facilities at MOH’s disposal to use them as quarantine centers whenever needed. In addition, TVTC has prepared more than 4,500 technical volunteers of its staff members to provide technical services and logistical and technical support. It has also provided 136 buses.

In coordination with the Emirate of the Medinah region, TVTC is currently working with the Crisis Management Center in Medinah. This coordination aims to launch the ‘Attaa Technician’ initiative. This initiative provides free emergency technical maintenance services to homes in Medinah, with the supervision of several specialized Saudi trainees and trainers in TVTC. They include electricity, sanitary installations, and air conditioning services. The initiative aims to reinforce the concept of volunteering among employees of the corporation, to achieve social solidarity, especially during these exceptional circumstances.

Al-Otaibi explained that TVTC has carried out several virtual awareness activities to combat the novel Coronavirus. They included a seminar on electronic training platforms in the face of the Coronavirus crisis, titled “Technology at the Service of Education”. It got over 19,500 views during its live broadcast. Additionally, an activity titled “Technological Electronic Scout Camp” was launched. It sought to raise awareness among TVTC’s scouts about ways of curbing the spread of COVID-19. 

Nearly 3,100 of the corporation’s scouts participated in it across KSA. It got more than 3 million views during its live broadcast. Additionally, an electronic seminar took place in cooperation with Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  It was titled “Crisis Management in the Face of Challenges in Educational and Training Institutions”. Its views reached 14,000. 

Al-Otaibi stated that TVTC has laid down a plan for the summer semester. If the current circumstances improved and directives were issued to allow regular education and training, direct training would continue during the summer semester. On the other hand, if the current circumstances continue, remote training will continue to take place.







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