Worshippers went online to listen to sermons. Families stocked up on groceries. And shoppers rushed to buy up hand sanitizers and masks.
For the most part, though, residents in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif region are adapting to new restrictions after the oil-producing area was sealed off from the rest of the kingdom on Sunday to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Vigilance against the infection appears high. Like others in the eastern region on the Gulf coast, Abu Ali and his family watched a religious sermon on their mobiles instead of gathering with other worshippers.
Husseiniyas – Shia Muslim religious gathering places – were empty on Monday when Qatif’s large Shia community commemorated the death of Sayida Zaynab, daughter of Imam Ali, considered the father of Shia Islam.
Religious leaders broadcast sermons on the Internet.
“Everybody was on their phones watching Youtube channels,” Abu Ali told Reuters by telephone on Tuesday.
Authorities locked down Qatif on Sunday, placing cement blocks and checkpoints to prevent movement in and out of the region while ensuring trade flows continued.
Authorities have said the lockdown was temporary, to contain the infection. Most of the kingdom’s 20 cases have involved people who had been in either Iran or Iraq or met individuals who had visited those countries, home to Shia holy sites.
They said several people had not disclosed their visits to the Islamic Republic upon returning to the kingdom, which has long banned its citizens from travelling to arch-foe Iran.