Saudi Arabia lifts coronavirus curfew, reinstates hajj

Residents of Saudi Arabia can now move around at all times, but other restrictions remain in place as coronavirus cases continue to rise by the thousands.

al-monitor Saudi women buy tickets for a movie at a cinema in the capital Riyadh, on June 22, 2020, as cinemas reopened following the lifting of a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images.

Jun 22, 2020

Saudi Arabia lifted its nationwide curfew yesterday, despite cases of the coronavirus still rising daily by the thousands.

On Sunday, the Saudi Ministry of the Interior said the "curfew shall be fully lifted,” according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia first imposed curfews and lockdowns in March to mitigate the spread of the virus. The Gulf kingdom has both eased and reimposed restrictions since then. The curfews ran for different amounts of times at night and also during the day.

Residents are now free to move around at all times. Several restrictions remain in place, however. People cannot gather in groups of more than 50. They must also wear masks and socially distance. International commercial passenger flights in and out of the kingdom also remain suspended, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia also announced today that the Hajj pilgrimage would take place with a "very limited number of pilgrims." The attendees will be selected from various nationalities already living in the kingdom, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement

The Hajj is a yearly pilgrimage to Islam's holiest site in Mecca that will take place in July this year. The Umrah pilgrimage, which can be done at any time, remains suspended, according to the ministry. 

The Hajj involves thousands of people in close quarters gathering in Mecca, which is currently a hotspot for COVID-19 in the country. The ministry cited the virus-related risks of large groups of people in crowded areas in its decision. 

These decisions follow other recent moves to reopen Saudi Arabia. On Friday, Saudi authorities announced that mosques in the holy city of Mecca, which was subject to more restrictive controls than other parts of the country, can reopen. Earlier this month, Saudi soccer teams resumed practices, with games to start again in August.

Cases are still rising significantly in Saudi Arabia. Authorities recorded 3,393 cases today, 3,379 yesterday and 3,941 on Saturday, according to Ministry of Health statistics. Saudi Arabia has had 161,005 total confirmed cases to date, per the ministry.

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