People flock to cafes and restaurants in Saudi Arabia as ban lifted

Cafes and restaurants in kingdom reopen after month-long ban on indoor dining

People sitting outside Locals Cafe in Jeddah on Sunday. The National
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Happy customers returned to Saudi Arabian cafes and restaurants while exercising caution and adhering to strict government health protocols, after a month-long ban on indoor dining.

Customers wore masks and gathered in groups of between two and four at tables in Jeddah cafes on Sunday afternoon.

Mohammed Ashram, co-founder of Locals, a new urban coffee shop in Jeddah, said he was “very happy” to welcome customers back.

Mr Ashram said people wanted to restore human connections in a safe and relaxing environment.

"We feel very happy that indoor and outdoor dining is back," he told The National.

"The new rules of ensuring tables are three metres apart make us and our customers feel safer and more comfortable while working and serving our best coffee and sandwiches.

"For all those in Jeddah, we will be more than happy to have you in our cozy little coffee shop."

Nawal, a Saudi sales manager, was enjoying his trip to a coffee shop in Jeddah.

“I am so excited to be back out and enjoy a normal day outdoors with my friend," said Nawal, 29.

"We have had a long and trying year of no travel and lockdowns, so I'm just hoping this will all be over soon.

"We want to make sure we help the government in its unbelievable efforts to safeguard our health and well-being by following all safety procedures.”

Hadeer, 24, an Egyptian expatriate living in Jeddah, was looking forward to her first trip to a movie theatre.

“I am so relieved and will be going to the cinema today with my sisters," she said.

"It is not that I am anxious but we also have this fear and ‘what if’ we can’t go out as usual again.

"I hope we never have to go back into lockdown again. It takes a toll on humans psychologically and I hope for this reason people can be more careful.”

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing has issued strict social-distancing protocols in restaurants and cafes.

The ministry has urged customers to stay 1.5 metres apart even when standing in queues to order.

It said members of a single family should be counted as one person and there was no need for social distancing between them.

The Ministry of Health urged the public to maintain social distancing and adhere to all health and safety protocols.

“With the return of some activities, remember that you are obligated to implement preventive measures,” the ministry said.

It suggested setting up ways for customers to wait without crowding at entrances of cafes and restaurants through e-booking or phone applications.

“We were told to ensure the CCTV cameras can capture the entire space so we can monitor people as they come in, give their temperature, then their order and their exit, to make sure they follow safety procedures,” said Mahmoud, a Saudi barista at a Starbucks cafe in Jeddah.

The Ministry of Health on Sunday said vaccines were available across all regions of the kingdom.

More than 1.3 million people have received the coronavirus vaccine in Saudi Arabia.

After coronovirus cases in the past 28 days, 228 mosques were temporarily shut but 218 of them reopened after they were disinfected.

More than 41,000 breaches of the precautionary measures were recorded in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom recorded 357 new coronavirus cases and four deaths on Sunday, and raised the total number of recoveries to 370,614.