Saudi Arabia again easing anti-virus restrictions

The Gulf country is still recording more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases per day.

al-monitor A Saudi man wearing protective gloves buys vegetables at a supermarket following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 11, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri.

May 26, 2020

Saudi Arabia will again begin easing restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Gulf country, which is home to Islam’s holiest sites, has a high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 76,726 as of today. Authorities put in place lockdowns in March, but allowed businesses to reopen and eased restrictions on civilian movement last month.

However, Saudi then instituted a five-day, 24-hour lockdown for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that began Sunday.

That lockdown will start to be lifted Thursday in phases. Beginning that day, the 24-hour lockdown will at first be reduced from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m., Reuters reported. The lockdown will end June 21, according to the outlet.

The holy city of Mecca will remain shut down at that date and Muslim pilgrimages are suspended indefinitely. Saudi Arabia  has been registering more than 2,000 cases daily, although the number was 1,931 today.

Reuters also reported that mosques will be allowed to reopen for prayers on Friday.

The Saudi economy has been hurt by the anti-virus measures as well as the oil price war. The oil-rich kingdom’s economy shrank significantly in March and April.

Other Gulf countries such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also reimposed restrictions recently. The Gulf is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic due to large populations of foreign workers living in cramped, poor living conditions.

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