Life stopped at 3:00 pm. People were not allowed to go out unless it was an emergency. Companies could reduce salaries up to 40%. Business got a hard blow as shoppers were forced to stay home to avoid any type of direct human contact. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases were recorded daily. That is how daily life used to be a year ago, marking now the 1st anniversary of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, all business activities are open. People can travel domestically whenever they want. With tens of thousands of new cases being recorded daily in neighboring countries, the Kingdom has managed for a long period of time to keep new cases under 700 as well as to maintain a high recovery rate. The post-Covid-19 Saudi Arabia has new foundations for a better quality of life.
What has changed? How did the quality of life get a boost?
Below are five signs that are tangible:
 HIGHER STANDARDS OUTDOORS
The dining experience has reached a new level of quality. Everyone involved in the process of cooking food, preparing beverages, and serving food wears masks and gloves that are replaced regularly.
Every restaurant or café customer gets their body temperature measured before entering and must show their health status on Tawaklna App, a smart phone application made to track Covid-19 infections, vaccinations and recoveries. This makes people who love to eat out feel safer. It functions as a “local passport” to enter hotels, shopping malls, business offices, etc.
The government has made it obligatory for people working in F&B sector to get vaccinated. Otherwise, they must test for Covid-19 every 7 days on their own expense.
The quality has improved for delivery orders. Drivers, who pick up orders from restaurants and deliver to homes, apply higher standards of hygiene from pickup to delivery.
People walk past a closed restaurant in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on February 5, 2021, after new rules laid out by the Ministry of Interior to curb a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. (Getty)
 MORE DIGITALIZATION
Visiting government agencies or banks are not as necessary as before. Most of the transactions no longer require a physical presence.
Cash transactions are decreasing dramatically. In 2020, digital payments surged 75% in the Kingdom. All business activities are required to provide Points of Sale through which customers can pay through smart phones or contactless cards.
People do not have to line up at ATMs or bank tellers to withdraw cash and touch the banknotes when shopping. Saudi Arabia is speeding up its steps toward a cashless society. The pandemic is an excellent opportunity to give up old habits and get more involved in the digital life for greater convenience.
One of the catalysts of the digitalization is Covid-19. Crowds are not tolerated no matter what. Digitalization is the best way to get things done without direct physical contact.
 MORE RESPONSIVE AGENCIES
For Saudis, Covid-19 is a national security issue, not a health one only. Everyone is involved in keeping the country safer and more immune.
Government agencies have dedicated special numbers, websites, and accounts on social media channels to report cases of health measure violations. Once a violation is reported, the reporter gets updated on the investigation and disciplinary procedures taken. The response is subject to evaluation by the reporter.
This gives citizens and expats more assurance and confidence in the way government agencies are handling the pandemic challenge.
Public awareness regarding health issues has improved. It is either self-commitment or hefty fines for violators.
 FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (NAZAHA) is sending regular updates to mobile phones on the number of investigations and individuals accused with more details on their nationality and where they work.
High ranking employees, officers, and businesspeople have faced corruption charges. Citizens and expats are encouraged to report cases of corruption.
More transparency means the country is paving the way to a higher rank of the quality of life. Corrupt countries do not prosper and thrive. NAZAHA’s updates give a clear sign to the public that violators are held accountable for their actions, meaning more equality and justice.
 BIGGER GOVERNEMNT SPENDING
During the pandemic, the Saudi government dedicated more investment into the local market. The Public Investment Fund, the government’s sovereign investment arm, bought more shares in local companies.
The government announced that Mega projects like “The Line,” a 170 km. long mega smart city consisting of connected communities launched early 2021. New PIF-owned companies have started work on the ground. ROHSHN, a community developer, is advancing its work to build modern communities while keeping a traditional spirit.
More investments mean more hiring. The latest unemployment reports show better figures and recovery. Unemployment among Saudis decreased to 14.9% in Q3 2020 from 15.4 percent in Q2 2020. More job recovery is expected with pumping more investments in the different sectors.