Saudi to enforce round-the-clock virus curfew at Eid



Imam Mohammed, muezzin of the Jaffali mosque in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, announces the prayer call at the mosque which is closed due to a government decree as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, during the holy month of Ramadan on April 28th. [Amer Hilabi/AFP]

Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday to fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as infections spike, the interior ministry said Tuesday (May 12th).

The kingdom, which has reported the highest number of virus cases in the Gulf region, is scrambling to limit the spread of the deadly disease.

A full lockdown will be reimposed around the country from May 23rd to 27th, the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Most parts of the kingdom were put under full lockdown following the outbreak, but last month the government relaxed the curfew between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Malls and retailers have been allowed to reopen, except in major hotspots including the holy city of Mecca -- where confirmed cases have soared, despite a stringent lockdown.

The health ministry said Tuesday the number of COVID-19 deaths had risen to 264 and confirmed infections to 42,925, while 15,257 people have recovered.

In March, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage over fears of the disease spreading in Islam's holiest cities.

Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year's hajj -- scheduled for late July -- but they have urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.

Last year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from across the world to participate in hajj.

The Arab world's biggest economy also has closed cinemas and restaurants and halted flights as it attempts to contain the virus.

King Salman has warned of a "more difficult" fight ahead against COVID-19, as the kingdom faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.

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