Contact us

Getting used to the Coronavirus

In my last blog I reported on the Kingdom’s strategies and efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. There was public health advice (handwashing, cough etiquette etc) and minor international travel restrictions. Fast forward 3 weeks and we are really engaging the virus with hard core social exclusion. Many of the tactics will be familiar to blog readers elsewhere, but Saudi Arabia seems to be more than a week ahead of some western countries with its restrictions.

I was instructed to work from home as far back as the 12th of March, and as of a week ago our movements were even more heavily restricted with a nationwide curfew – controlled by the army – preventing people from going outdoors from 3pm until 6am daily. Within our compound, all the leisure facilities including the gym, pool and restaurant are closed. The compound shop, a convenience store, has risen to the challenge, as although it restricts visitors to two a time, it will take orders and fetch in from its parent store in the city, and we can pick them up at agreed time slots.

In addition to the curfew, we are not permitted to leave the city of Riyadh and there are roadblocks on all routes at the city limits. Exceptions to the movement restrictions are lorries carrying commercial goods and supplies. On the work front, all railway passenger services have been suspended, but rail freight shipments continue. I was speaking to the regional manager of a major supermarket chain in KSA last week, and he assured me that their supply chains are secure. This includes imported fresh meats from north and south America, Australia etc.

International flights are things of distant memory, with all flights to Europe having been suspended in mid-March. The new UK ambassador to KSA took to social media and announced special repatriation flights for UK citizens last week. These were prioritised for Brits who were here on temporary visas, and I know a couple of people who took advantage of them. Elaine and I had a (very short) discussion on whether or not we should head for home, and decided we would be better off staying here, as in our opinion the health situation was stronger and there was a reported continuity of supplies assured. Airline flights seemed to be high risk as the number of international travellers contacting the virus seems to be higher than those, like us who stay put in one place. Maybe the TV scare stories of life in the UK with panic-buying and the NHS about to crumble put us off. But in KSA there is very little negative news as that’s not the culture of this place. We are all about positive news. One such announcement this week was from the King who declared that all medical facilities, including the ultra-private Royal Hospital would offer free treatment for all virus sufferers.

One feature that has impressed us here is the acceptance and compliance of the populace, natives and ex-pats alike of the restrictions imposed. If the King says stay indoors unless you are a key worker, that’s what people seem to be doing. The UK news currently, is full of stories of people who are not following government advice to self-isolate and have found innovative reasons to go out and about. Maybe that’s the rebellious streak in us. But on the other side of the coin there have been millions of Brits who have changed their lifestyles and are choosing to volunteer and help the less fortunate in the community. Well done to you. I feel slightly guilty not being able to help in a hands-on way.

On the (very) down side, the Yemenis have taken to again sending missiles into Riyadh as the six-year long proxy war there rumbles on. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Yemeni factions and their international backers decided that getting together to combat the world-wide virus was more important than perpetuation of the Sunni/Shia struggle. I live in hope.

Contacting us is straightforward

* Email:

* Call Alastair Fyfe directly on 07785 370074 (UK) or +966 503095212