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Ongoing restrictions

I have mostly steered clear of the elephant in the room this year because it is getting top billing in nearly every media outlet, it is such a fast-changing scenario and the moment I publish any opinions they will be out of date. But I would like to put on record our recent experiences which are relevant, and are not just about the wider effects.

Covid-19 is a pandemic, but is being tackled in many different ways in different countries. Colleagues in KSA are incredulous that in the UK a worldwide problem affecting our islands are being tackled in 5 different ways, with the UK Government deciding what is happening in England, the devolved administrations doing different things in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and sharing a land border with the UK, the Republic of Ireland is ploughing its different furrow too. From afar, as island nations the UK and Ireland should be able to protect their shores far more easily than a continental country.  

But here in Riyadh Covid-19 has come a step closer to us. Elaine meets with a group of ladies each week for coffee, cards and chit-chat, and one of her friend’s husband was tested for Coronavirus after a colleague of his was tested positive. He in turn tested positive, as subsequently did Elaine’s friend too. As Elaine had been in contact with the friend in the incubation period it was recommended that we be tested too.

So what do we do? The friend and her husband had been advised to go to a hospital and request tests, and they did so. They were charged 450 SAR (£150) each and the result was transmitted 24 hours later to them, and they were then advised to self-isolate for 14 days. Unfortunately their health insurance would not cover the test fees. Meanwhile the Saudi Ministry of Health advice was to check their website for latest advices.

The advice given to us was to download the “Sehhaty” app and make an appointment for a test. This turned out to be simplicity itself. We were offered a choice of 3 locations in Riyadh (and many more around the kingdom), and a choice of times, divided into ½ hour slots. There was space available in 1 hours time from the time we both booked, at 7.00pm, so we drove to the test site which was a big car park area just off the Airport Road. 

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Entrance to the test site.

We drove in, unchecked, and joined a queue of approximately 60 other cars and 4x4s. Fortunately the queue moved forward quite steadily. We reached the front after a while and were directed to a test lane. There were 12 of these, so no wonder things were moving apace. As there were two testees in the one car, Elaine had to sit in the seat behind the driver, and we were to remain there and use only the left side windows. 


Our turn next...

We were greeted by a young man who checked our reservations via QR codes which had been sent to our phones  The lad registered us onto his computer system and then a nurse emerged from the other door of the booth and took a throat swab from me, and having bagged and registered it, did the same with Elaine. 



That was it, and we drove off. By 9.00am the next day our results arrived via text message, both negative thank goodness. All in all, we were impressed with the ease and smoothness of the testing system. Oh, and it was free too. Well done, KSA Ministry of Health!


A very welcome text message.

Travel restrictions remain. Until mid-September there were no international flights except for one-way repatriation trips, these being a couple of Saudia airline flights per month from Riyadh or Jeddah to London, Frankfurt or Paris. And you had to be pretty sure you needed to leave as the prices were exhorbitant. Regrettably a couple of people in the railway industry here have had to avail themselves of these repat flights in response to family emergencies. Having gone, they have so far not been able to return, but hopefully should get back in soon. Elaine has been trying to go home since April, and we have had 3 booked trips abroad cancelled too. However as it is a pandemic we are dealing with the whole world is in the same boat, I mustn’t grumble as millions of folk are far worse off than us. Elaine’s BA flights have been cancelled and rebooked 6 times now. She is hopeful of getting home in early October. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, in the absence of social things to do, I have taken up jigsaw puzzles as a form of relaxation and challenge. Elaine tolerates this as it keeps me out of her hair at weekends, but a puzzle in progress clutters up the dining table. I have now worked my way through most of the restricted range of ones on sale in Riyadh. I have a preference for landscapes. Does anyone have one to swap please?


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