What the law says about life in the ‘new normal’
With the resumption of work in the public and private sectors, and the reopening of commercial businesses, strict controls and precautionary measures have been introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
All businesses are required to ensure that staff, customers and clients wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth; to provide disinfectants and sterilizers in designated places; to take the temperature of employees and customers at the entrances to malls and commercial centers; to disinfect shopping trolleys and baskets after each use; and to close children’s play areas.
In offices and other places of work, large gatherings and events are prohibited, as is greeting someone with a handshake. Office space must be reorganized to ensure a safe distance between staff, using physical separators where possible. Staff should enter and leave the premises in different places where possible, they should have their temperatures taken, and anyone whose temperature exceeds 38 C may not enter.
There is a fine of SR10,000 ($2,664) for breaching any of these regulations. If there is a second offense the fine will be doubled and the business will be closed for three months. In the event of a third offense, the fine will be doubled again, the business will be closed for six months and its managers will be referred to the Public Prosecution.
It is important to note that penalties apply to individual offenders as well as businesses. We all share the responsibility for implementing preventive and precautionary measures, such as wearing protective clothing and maintaining a safe distance from each other, and not only at work.
It is also important to respect the health protocols imposed by the Kingdom in situations such as going to the mosque to pray, enjoying newly reopened restaurants and cafes, or visiting government or private agencies.
This easing of restrictions does not mean that the pandemic has come to an end, or that the virus is no longer dangerous. On the contrary, with many restrictions lifted we should be even more on our guard. The easing will help our society and its institutions to cope with the new lifestyle, which is characterized by self-protection and safe distancing.
So this responsibility is shared by individuals and institutions, companies and employers. Commercial and business establishments can help by publicly displaying the regulations so that everyone knows what is expected of them. And individuals may report any breach of these protocols, whether they are praying at the mosque, or even enjoying their favorite meal at a restaurant.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal counsel and a member of the International Association of Lawyers.