JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior has issued a list of COVID-19 precautionary regulations for commercial establishments to follow now that they can resume services.
The long list covers a broad range of businesses and entities such as driving schools, education academies, tailors, wedding halls, daycare centers, spas, mosques, flights, public transport, cafes and restaurants, among others.
Wedding halls have resumed activities on the condition that guest numbers are capped at 50 and for them to wear face masks for the duration of the celebrations, sparking jokes on social media as Saudis posted videos and memes of the dress fabric matching the face masks. Wedding protocols also include single-use cups and utensils and limiting the celebration to no more than five hours.
Dareen Abdullah, who is 28 and lives in Jeddah, regarded the precautions as a necessity.
“I come from a big family, which literally means there are at least three family unions a year,” she told Arab News.
“I will eventually be going to one, without a doubt, but I’m not sure if they’ll continue to be on a large scale as compared to before the pandemic.”
She saw the memes and thought they were funny, but said that the government was trusting people to be responsible as they returned to some sort of normality.
“It’s now our job to do so cautiously, and not toss the efforts of medical workers risking their lives every day down the drain.”
Several businesses share health recommendations, such as ensuring a safe distance of 1.5 meters between people by highlighting stickers on the ground, providing hand sanitizers within view for customers and employees, disinfecting the area a minimum of twice a day, and checking the temperature of visitors and workers, while not allowing entry to anyone with a temperature of more than 38° C.
The ministry has also recommended making a room available to hold any people suspected to have COVID-19, ensuring the availability of e-payment methods, and capping the number of individuals allowed in an enclosed space in facilities like public bathrooms and waiting rooms.
Office spaces and academic institutes have been instructed to disable their clocking-in systems for the time being, cut back on paperwork and pivot toward electronic documentation to avoid spreading the virus. A monitoring body should be appointed to eliminate social gatherings around cubicles, parking areas and waiting rooms.
Children below the age of seven are not allowed into gyms, beauty salons, barber shops and tailors’ workshops. Tailors have also been instructed to avoid physical contact with customers when taking their measurements.
Beauty and barbers’ salons are expected to change equipment after every customer, and disinfect the seating area before taking on another client. Spas have received strict protocols due to the nature of their service. A masseuse or someone giving a Moroccan bath in these establishments needs to use single-use tools with towels, loofahs and soap.
They must ensure that the products used, such as lotions and oil, are in a container, if not disposed of or replaced after every customer. They also need to be fully equipped with protective gear, wearing masks, gloves, a face protector or goggles, as well as their professional uniform.
Customers must also be checked in one at a time, and the spa worker needs to seat people at different spots than ones previously occupied. It is also preferable to air out sauna rooms and bathhouses after each customer to allow ventilation.
“Honestly, with all of these regulations, I don’t think many salons will offer the services for the time being, nor will customers feel safe going for them,” Hana Al-Saiari, a 26-year-old massage fan from Jeddah, told Arab News.
“I think that without such strict measures, COVID-19 would spread a lot faster. It’s why we have maintained considerably low losses this far.”
Restaurants and cafes were given recommendations to use electronic menus, or share QR-coded ones with customers, and have single-use utensils. Jana Baleegh, a 19-year-old college student, shared her post-lockdown dining experience. “We went to Le Concheur and they immediately took our temperatures,” she told Arab News.
“Tables were separated by one meter. The place offers QR-coded menus that can be scanned from a plastic menu sign on the table. They also offered us a choice, if we would rather drink in paper cups or regular mugs for our coffee.”
She said that the experience helped make her feel safer returning to the restaurant because of how employees were treating customers.
“I am more likely to not visit a restaurant if they serve food on regular plates. I have no idea if the person who ate before me was virus-free, and if they’ve been cleaned properly.”
The ministry gave instructions that ought to be followed when there has been a confirmed COVID-19 case in any establishment. Authorities must be contacted immediately.
The workplace must ensure the infection is not spread through examination and isolation of the employee, and the infected individual’s workplace is to be disinfected.