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2020 in Review: Top Stories from the Past Year

The year 2020 has been like no other. It has transformed the lives of almost each and everyone of us to an extent we could have never imagined before. For many, this year will go down as one of the darkest in living memory. But amid the mayhem sparked by the pandemic, there are also pieces of good news that brought a bit of cheer.

Here are the stories that have made the headlines last year…


Snow in Saudi
Parts of Saudi Arabia were blanketed by snow, especially in the northwestern regions such as the Dahr Mountains. The meteorology office urged residents to keep warm and avoid venturing to isolated places.

Oman & Bahrain: Hundreds of cancelled flights
Oman Air has announced that it has cancelled over 700 flights for the month of January 2020. The carrier has axed all Boeing 737 MAX flights following the decision by the Sultanate’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation to ground all planes until safety issues are addressed by aircraft makers Boeing.

In Bahrain, at least 15 flights have been cancelled including Etihad, Emirates and Fly Dubai, as well as Gulf Air. This was caused by the tensions that emerged in Iraq.


Saudi & Bahrain: Extreme temperature drops
Bahrain recorded the lowest temperature of 8.2 degrees Celsius with a real feel of one degree. Sources added that the real feeling of one degree, recorded in the robotic monitoring station located in Sitra, in some areas of Bahrain was due to strong winds.

In Saudi, temperatures reached zero degree and below. The freezing conditions affected the Northern Border Region, Al-Jouf, Tabuk, Hail, and Qassim region.

Bahrain: Expats terminated from Education Ministry

No expatriates have been hired by the Ministry of Education in the past two years, it is learnt. According to ministry sources, the ministry stopped the recruitment of expatriates to increase the recruitment of Bahrainis.

Bahrain: More flights suspended
The number of incoming regional flights in Bahrain has been reduced and all flights from Dubai and Sharjah have been suspended.


Gold price reduced
Gold prices had recently dropped $25 dollars in the global commodity markets to be in the $1,555 plus an ounce range.

Bahrain: Commercial outlets closed
All commercial outlets were closed from the 26th of March until 9th of April as part of the measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Government covered salaries of Bahraini employees
A total of 100,000 Bahraini private sector employees, registered with the Social Insurance Organisation, had their April, May, and June salaries covered by the economic stimulus package at a cost of BD 215 million.


Only essential businesss remain open in Bahrain

Groceries, hypermarkets, supermarkets and other food stores remained open from 7AM to 7PM. Also included in this list are bakeries, medical establishments, financial institutions, mobile repair and other telecommunication outlets and garages.

Saudi: First batch of Filipinos repatriated

The first flight carrying Filipino expats left Saudi Arabia for the Philippines on 21st April. This initiative was aimed mainly to facilitate the return of those expats whose contracts with their employers have come to an end.

man counting bahrain currency

Bahrain considered bill to pay private sector salaries

A draft-law concerning paying the salaries of all private-sector employees for three months (April, May and June 2020) was considered in April.


Dubai Airports ready to welcome passengers

Dubai Airports confirmed its readiness to support the resumption of scheduled operations. They also required travelers to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and arrive at the airport four hours before their flight to allow time for additional security measures.

UK COVID-19 vaccine results could be available soon

Results from the UK’s first human trial of a COVID-19 vaccine could be available as soon as June.


Emirates announced 50 additional destinations

Emirates airline announced its network expansion of 50 destinations in June as more and more countries have eased travel restrictions.

UAE announced full reopening of borders

UAE authorities announced its preparations to fully reopen the country’s borders after months of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.


King Fahd Causeway reopened

Saudi Arabia said that its citizens in Bahrain can return to the Kingdom via the King Fahd Causeway without a prearranged permit.

Direct sale of India repatriation tickets started

Indian expats who have registered with the Indian missions in the UAE secured seats on the Vande Bharat mission on a first-come-first-serve basis.

UAE-India flights resumed

Flights from India to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah resumed from 31st July, Air India Express announced.


Kuwait resumed flights to 20 countries

The airlines operating at Kuwait International Airport resumed its commercial flights to 20 countries worldwide. The airlines started operating flights to the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran, Nepal, Switzerland, Germany, Azerbaijan and other destinations.

Saudi opened land borders

Saudi citizens and their non-Saudi family members as well as accompanying domestic workers who are currently in neighbouring countries are allowed to return to the Kingdom through land ports.


Indians can return to Bahrain

The Air Bubble arrangement between India and Bahrain has been operationalized to facilitate travel between the two countries. Both Indian and Bahraini national carriers were permitted to operate a specified number of flights.

Oman issued new dress code

People entering malls in Muscat wearing sleeveless shirts and shorts are to face fines of up to OMR 300, and jail terms of up to three months, as part of new rules drawn up for people to dress modestly while in public.

120,000-year-old human footprints discovered in Saudi

Saudi Arabia announced the discovery of 120,000-year-old footprints of humans and predators in the northern region of Tabuk.


Saudi airlines: Huge demand from stranded expats

A large number of expats in the Indian subcontinent wished to return to Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom resumed its international flights to 20 cities.

Gulf Air introduced new ‘Boutique Fares’

Gulf Air has introduced a new pricing concept of its airfares to make it easier and clearer to its passengers regarding what’s included in each price bracket.


Bahrain mourned death of Prime Minister

Bahrain’s Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, passed away in a hospital Mayo Clinic, USA on 11th November.

Abu Dhabi set new world record

Mina Plaza Towers has been declared the world’s ‘tallest building to be demolished using explosives’ (controlled demolition). Modon Properties, which carried out the project, set a new Guinness World Record with the safe and successful demolition.


Vaccine rollouts

As the year drew to a close, governments are on the cusp of inoculating millions, starting with the elderly, medics and the most vulnerable before moving into mass campaigns presented as the only ticket back to a normal life.

In December, Britain became the first Western country to approve a vaccine for general use and roll out the inoculation developed in the BioNTech lab in cooperation with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Bahrain then announced that the country will initiate a vaccination campaign against COVID-19 for free. In the same month, Saudi Arabia officially banned child marriages under 18.

Bahraini ministry announced plans to replace expats by 2024

Bahrain’s Ministry of Works and Municipality Affairs plans to replace its foreign employees with citizens by 2024. Around 446 foreigners are currently working at the ministry, accounting for some 17 per cent of its overall workforce.


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