(Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia exceeded 35,000 on Friday as the kingdom struggles to get to grips with rising numbers of new infections.

Officials reported 1,701 new cases , taking the total to 35,432. The country has recorded a daily average of around 1,500 new cases over the past week.

Despite the rising number of cases, the kingdom’s death toll has remained relatively low. It increased by 10 on Friday to 229.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday formed a police unit to monitor violations of its coronavirus lockdown rules and banned gatherings of more than five people, according to state news agency SPA, citing hefty fines for any violations.

Fines of up to 100,000 riyals ($27,000) will be handed down to groups larger than one family gathering in public and private spaces, including homes, construction sites and shops. The same rule applies for parties, weddings and funerals.

Saudi Arabia recorded its first COVID-19 infection on March 2, several weeks after the initial outbreak in Asia.

(Reporting by Jane Wardell and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Richard Pullin, Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)