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Saudi CDC COVID-19 Rapid Response Teams-A, 4-Month Report, April 2020-July 2020.


On 8 December 2019, several cases of pneumonia of unknown origin were reported in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China. The disease was named COVID-19. Cases continued to spread within China, and the first confirmed cases outside of China were announced in Finland, India, and the Philippines on 30 January 2020. Saudi Arabia reported its first COVID-19 cases on 2 March 2020. Cases continued to spread in the Kingdom, and existing public health infrastructure was unable to meet testing demands. To meet this emerging public health need, the Saudi Center for Disease Control (CDC) created rapid response teams (RRT) to deploy quickly and for long periods of time to assist with the response.


The Saudi CDC established the COVID-19 RRTs in April 2020. The main objective of the COVID-19 RRTs is rapid testing of potential COVID-19 cases and contacts. This allows the Saudi government to quickly and effectively identify cases of COVID-19, including those cases that are presymptomatic or asymptomatic, to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19, ultimately reducing COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The RRTs recruited and trained 20 members. Within four months from when the RRT launched, the RRTs had completed 99 missions and conducted more than 2300 tests. At least 352 (15.3%) swabs were positive; national positivity for COVID-19 laboratory testing is approximately 1%. The time from notification to swabbing was reduced from 24 hours to less than 8 hours.


This report is a summary of the enormous effort undertaken by the Saudi Center for Disease Control and Prevention to establish the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team (RRT). The high proportion of positive swabs collected by the RRT suggests they were effective at targeting groups at high suspicion for COVID-19 infection. While establishing and operating the RRT was challenging, the Saudi CDC gained invaluable experience in public health emergency response. Lessons learned from the RRT in Riyadh should be used to expand this model throughout the Kingdom, as well as build more robust teams for future response efforts.