Governance tools against coronavirus disease

Dr. Abdullah Alshareef

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is a rapidly evolving national and international problem, as the potentially fatal virus can be easily transmitted person to person. The media provides daily information about COVID-19, especially regarding where the disease has been diagnosed and along which route the disease is spreading. In addition to this, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Saudi Arabia is attempting to determine the characteristics and symptoms of COVID-19 as well as the requirements for early treatment.

COVID-19 is a serious problem, not just for Saudi Arabia but for countries all around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of infected people is rapidly growing and the number of deaths has been also been increasing. COVID-19 infection transmits easily from human to human when people are physically close to each other; therefore, people in crowded areas are at more risk of being infected due to possible contamination. WHO states it is very important that individuals protect themselves and others from infection by washing their hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching their face.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an increasing impact in the Middle East. Recent days have seen a dramatic increase in the number of detected COVID-19 cases, following the pattern seen in China and some European countries. In order to prevent the spread of the disease in Saudi Arabia, public officials have taken necessary precautions by determining the proper governance tools to create effective and efficient policies.

This paper will identify the selected tools that Saudi government have used to address the COVID-19 problem and discuss why these tools are selected as well as how these tools can be utilized to get the most effective results. The selected tools are social regulation, interorganizational collaboration and public information.

The public information tool is very helpful in providing awareness about a current problem and giving accurate information on an issue about which the public needs to be informed. The simple rationale behind this tool is that people are rational and are responsive to relevant information. The information may contain the symptoms of COVID-19, such as detailed information about disease and the initial symptoms for early recognition, as well as what happens if a person gets this disease. For example, since COVID-19 is transmitted through physical contact, it is very important to keep the body clean. The public information tool can be utilized to achieve awareness of this in the public.

On 19 March, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman noted that the full cooperation of the people is necessary for the success of the government’s efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus. Moreover, King Salman said that Saudi Arabia continues to take all possible preventative measures to combat the coronavirus. In order to prevent the disease, public awareness and the dissemination of information about the disease should be focused. To draw the public’s attention to the danger of COVID-19, the public information tool is being utilized to address the problem in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s Minster of Health has asked all citizens and residents to stay at home as much as possible and maintain social distance.

The Saudi government has designed an information campaign to inform citizens and residents about how to protect themselves against infection. This information has been distributed by social media, TV advertisements, flyers, radio announcements and websites. On 23 March, the Saudi Government ordered a curfew from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. for a period of 21 days, effective from Monday evening, to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingdom.

Social regulations tools are rules issued by the government agencies to restrict individual or organizational behaviors that directly threaten public health, social well-being and public safety. If the number of COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia continues to increase, it will be a severe threat to public health. The Saudi Government has issued a regulation that requires all public agencies, private health institutions and other agencies to report any suspicious COVID-19 cases to the Ministry of Health. Since COVID-19 is transmitted human to human via physical contact, people in crowded places are at a high risk of being infected. Through implementing this regulation, the Ministry of Health is able to detect infected people early and start treatment. This also allows the government to intervene early and prevent the virus from being transmitted to more people.

On 4 March, Saudi Arabia announced a temporary suspension of the Umrah pilgrimage and visits to the Prophet’s Mosque for Saudis and residents as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, as a further precautionary measure, Saudi Arabia closed all cinema theaters until further notice on 11 March. Many schools have already been closed and some public activities, such as conferences and sports activities, have been canceled after COVID-19 cases were detected in certain areas. If government intervention does not target this problem, the costs of COVID-19 pandemic will seriously affect the country. This disease will likely have various adverse effects. First of all, possible deaths caused by COVID-19 will increase and lead to public distress and outrage. Second, the costs of treatment for infected people will be a huge financial burden for the government. The costs of cancelling many programs and shutting schools down will also be a serious problem. The negative effect of this disease will not be limited to these costs. The overall economy will be negatively impacted by the decrease in international trade and decreased revenue of tourism. Moreover, there is an economic impact from local businesses that have closed or laid off staff due to reduced demand.

The interorganizational collaboration and network tool is used to address complicated problems that Ministry of Health cannot solve by itself. Different aspects of these problems necessitate collaboration between different government agencies, nonprofit organizations, universities and the private sector. On 14 March, Saudi Arabia suspended international flights for two weeks as part of the effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the Kingdom. Since the source of the disease is other countries, it is essential to identify any cases of COVID-19 before the infected people enter Saudi Arabia. It is very important to understand that screening processes in airports, seaports and land ports should be reconsidered and redesigned. Given the possible effects of the problem, government intervention is needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Therefore, establishing an information-sharing network that will link the Ministry of Health and the airport authorities will allow for more effective detection and screening of any infected people coming from abroad.

*Head of Health Service Management Department

Assistant Professor, Department of Business

School of Business

University of Jeddah

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia