Saudi health minister: COVID-19 vaccines will be available at pharmacies for free

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Strict health and safety measures and a dedicated app to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are being hailed for helping to push down the number of virus cases in the Madinah region by more than 86 percent.

Officials said the implementation of precautionary and preventive rules alongside the effective use of Saudi Arabia’s official Ministry of Health-approved Tawakkalna app had been major contributors toward combating the outbreak.

“Digital applications and artificial intelligence proved to be one of the most successful approaches both regionally and globally (in tackling COVID-19),” said ministry spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abdulaali.

The app was launched last year to help track COVID-19 infections and has since been developed and updated to function as a COVID-19 passport that users produce to confirm their health condition in order to gain access to workplaces, shops, and malls.

In the space of two months, it had played a key role in slowing the spread of the virus in the region, Al-Abdulaali added in report by state news agency SPA.

He pointed out that the Madinah region had been going through a critical period in which the number of infection cases had significantly increased.

“This came as a result of some public negligence in observing the preventive measures and precautions; particularly, the lack of adherence to quarantine in addition to social gatherings,” the SPA report said, adding that this had led to a sharp rise in the number of daily cases, prompting the rollout of the Tawakkalna app.

Following two months of strict enforcement of preventive measures and the promotion of the app, infection rates in Madinah fell significantly.

Al-Abdulaali urged the implementation of preventive measures in all regions as a “collective community response” to fighting COVID-19 and encouraged citizens to use Tabaud, a bluetooth-based app that notifies individuals if they come into contact with other infected people.

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