DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia placed its capital Riyadh and other big cities under a 24-hour curfew on Monday, locking down much of the population as the largest Gulf Arab country expanded efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
The new curfew applies to the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Damam, Dharan, Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Khobar, a statement from the interior ministry said.
Entry to or exit from those areas will not be allowed, except for vital workers. Residents are allowed to leave their homes for medical or food needs inside their residential area and between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. only.
Saudi Arabia reported four more deaths from the virus on Monday, bringing the total death toll there to 38.
The government on Thursday imposed a 24-hour curfew in the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Saudi’s eastern oil-producing province of Qatif, where the kingdom’s first coronavirus cases were reported among Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims returning from Iran, has been on lockdown for four weeks.
Countries of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have recorded almost 8,000 cases of infection and 60 deaths.
In Kuwait, the government announced a full lockdown on two densely-populated districts and extended a public holiday by two weeks until April 26 as precautionary measures against the coronavirus.
It also extended its partial curfew by two hours in the morning to run from 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) until 6 a.m. effective Monday until further notice. The interior minister urged people to stay indoors even during non-curfew hours. The Gulf Arab country has recorded 665 cases of the new coronavirus and one death so far.
It declared a two-week public holiday from March 12 except for entities providing essential services, which has since been extended.
On Monday, the cabinet said all ministries and government institutions would now remain on holiday until April 26.
The two districts to be put under a two-week “complete isolation” are Jleeb al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula, two heavily populated areas where poorer expatriate workers live.
“The decision to isolate (the two area areas) is in order to test everyone in there and treat them so it does not impact other areas,” the state news agency KUNA reported the interior minister as saying.
The United Arab Emirates reported 277 new coronavirus cases, its biggest daily jump, and one new death. Dubai has also sealed off a densely populated neighbourhood where many blue-collar workers live.
In total, the UAE has recorded 2,076 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths. A ministry of health spokeswoman said the rise in case numbers in recent days was due to increased numbers of tests being carried out.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Chris Reese, Mark Heinrich and Tom Brown)