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Saudi introduces new restrictions as corona deaths double in the Gulf

March 30, 2020 at 2:19 pm

Saudi capital Riyadh, 26 March 2020 [FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia extended its lockdown by suspending entry and exit from Jeddah on Sunday amid the coronavirus outbreak, while announcing four new deaths due to the pandemic, which has continued to spread in the region, despite strict measures to contain it.

The Saudi Ministry of Health said that four foreigners residing in Jeddah and Medina died from the virus, raising the total to eight; 96 new confirmed cases have been recorded in the kingdom, bringing the total number of infections to 1,299, the highest among the Gulf states.

New cases have been reported across the region to bring the total number of people infected with COVID-19 in the six Arab Gulf states to more than 3,200, of which 15 are known to have died.

New entry and exit restrictions have been imposed by Saudi authorities in Jeddah. Similar restrictions had previously been imposed last week on the three other major cities in the country: Riyadh, Makkah and Medina.

Over the weekend the kingdom also extended indefinite suspension of international flights and a ban on going to workplaces. Both Riyadh and Kuwait imposed a partial curfew in some areas.

READ: Qatar criticises Bahrain’s response to its offer to help Bahraini citizens stranded in Doha

The UAE has imposed a curfew during the night until 5 April as part of a campaign to disinfect streets and public places.

Some of the harshest penalties have been introduced by Abu Dhabi. Reuters reported that Emirati Attorney General Hamad Saif Al Shamsi issued a statement detailing fines, including 50,000 dirhams ($13,000 dollars) for anyone violating domestic quarantine orders and 3,000 dirhams ($816) for those found in violation of the curfew.

Both Kuwait and the UAE have stopped passenger flights from their main airports. The Sultanate of Oman likewise suspended international passenger flights yesterday.

The emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, one of the UAE states, said on Saturday that hundreds of German tourists were returned to their country through its airport, while Kuwait announced that it evacuated 97 of its citizens from Iran yesterday.

Bahrain is reported to have found it difficult to rent a plane to fly its citizens from Iran. There are about 1,000 Bahraini citizens stuck in the Islamic Republic, which has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases.

READ: Coronavirus cases surpass 600,000 globally

Despite facing difficulties, Manama said yesterday that it had chartered a plane to evacuate 31 of its citizens who travelled from Tehran to Qatar in an attempt to return to their country.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker told Reuters yesterday that his company would continue to fly but warned that the company is facing serious financial problems and would require support from the government. Qatar Airways is among the few global airlines that still operate passenger flights.