Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia suspends private sector work

Health and food workers are exempt from the 15-day suspension

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Saudi Arabia suspended work in private sectors except for health, food and other vital services for 15 days, state news agency SPA reported early on Wednesday.

Necessary infrastructure roles such as those in electricity, water and communications will remain open while the rest of the country activates remote working procedures.

Government jobs – except for those in health, security and the military – are already on hold or are being done from a distance.

The government of Saudi Arabia advised all private companies to reduce the number of workers in offices to the absolute minimum necessary to continue operations, stating no more than 40 per cent of all employees should be present.

If more than 50 employees are in the office or staying in workplace-provided housing, their temperatures must be measured and symptoms checked at all entrance points.

The government emphasised that anyone exhibiting symptoms must inform their workplace and follow precautionary isolation steps.

Measures must also be taken to ensure social distancing protocol is followed for any workers in the office or in employer-provided housing.

All health clubs and nurseries inside public-sector offices have been ordered to close.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has released a remote working guide to help employers and employees make the transition.

Further measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus among vulnerable populations include a compulsory 14-day leave allowance, excluded from any standard allowance, for people considered more vulnerable to Covid-19. Those eligible include people with respiratory,  immunodeficiency or certain chronic diseases; people using immunosuppressive drugs; those with tumours; pregnant and lactating women; and workers over 55.

State-run oil company Saudi Aramco told The National that "operations are continuing as normal and we are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our employees, communities and operations".

The statement comes as the kingdom announced plans to boost oil exports to more than 10 million barrels per day as Saudi Aramco escalates a price war with Russia.


Saudi Arabia has reported 171 cases of coronavirus so far and has taken measures to limit the spread of the pathogen, including closing mosques for daily prayers and suspending school services. 

The kingdom, which currently leads the G20 presidency, said it is communicating with member countries to convene a virtual meeting of their leaders.

In a statement on Wednesday, the government said the Group of 20 nations would act in any way deemed necessary to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and put forward a co-ordinated set of policies to protect people and the global economy.