Saudi health workers are brimming with excitement after the kingdom announced some staff will be selected to undertake this year’s limited Hajj.
Last week the government announced just 1,000 people would be allowed to perform Hajj in Makkah this year because of the rapidly rising cases of coronavirus worldwide. Later it was confirmed the lucky few would be chosen from among Saudi healthcare workers and security personnel who had worked on the front lines during the health crisis.
Doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and facilities and food service teams at various private and government hospitals told The National they were proud and happy with the government's gesture to acknowledge the work of heroes on the front line against Covid-19.
Dr Zeyed Helmy, a dermatologist at King Fahad General Hospital (KFGH) heard he had been selected by the health ministry on Monday, a welcome reward after a difficult few months.
Dr Helmy contracted coronavirus in May after coming into contact with Covid-19 patients. He recovered and swiftly returned to work, resolved to work harder and longer to help those suffering.
“I was so happy when I received the call and to be part of this year’s Hajj delegation after what I have been through, it is so great,” De Helmy said.
"Our doctors, nurses, and other staff on the front lines of this unprecedented health care crisis really appreciate the outpouring of support from our government, and we look forward to taking advantage of these well-earned rewards."
Dr Helmy said the first thing he will do when he gets to Makkah for his first Hajj is show his gratitude and thankfulness to Allah for his recovery and pray for those who are suffering from the pandemic.
Dr Dina Qutb, an endodontist and head of the Covid-19 infection control team also at KFGH said the government's announcement is welcome recognition of medical workers' role in providing care to society throughout the ongoing pandemic.
"We are extremely grateful to our government for this generous gift to our health care workers, who have been at the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.
Coronavirus in the Middle East
Healthcare workers around the world have seen the bitter impact of the respiratory disease, which has killed more than 2000 people among the medical fraternity.
They have worked to prepare hospitals for incoming patients, treat the unwell, and help families say goodbye to their dying relatives.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in Saudi Arabia, I insisted on volunteering with my colleagues in order to aid patients despite the severe pressure,” Dr Qutb said.
“We put our lives at risk to save the lives of our people. I have seen many doctors fall sick and be admitted to be put on ventilators and monitors, or worse, die. This has been the hardest thing to witness,” she added.
Hala Tashkandi, a 32-year-old nurse working for a private hospital, is now back at work after contracting and recovering from the virus
“I have heard about the announcement by the Ministry of Hajj to allow only those working in the health field to perform Hajj this year. I hope I can join them because I am eligible,” she said.
This year's scaled-down Hajj will host 70 per cent foreigners residing in the kingdom for the annual event while the remaining 30 per cent will be Saudis.