Saudi Arabia to end coronavirus curfew from June 21
May 27, 2020 05:10 AM
Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it will end its nationwide coronavirus curfew from June 21, except in the holy city of Makkah, after more than two months of stringent curbs.
Prayers will also be allowed to resume in all mosques outside Makkah from May 31, the interior ministry said in a series of measures announced on state media.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Kuwait and the emirate of Dubai also moved to ease their lockdown measures, which together with a collapse in oil prices have pushed the region into its worst economic crisis in decades.
Saudi Arabia, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Gulf, imposed a full nationwide curfew during Eidul Fitr.
The ministry said it will begin easing restrictions in a phased manner this week, with the curfew relaxed between 6 am and 3 pm between Thursday and Saturday.
From Sunday until June 20, the curfew will be further eased until 8 pm, the ministry added. The kingdom will lift the lockdown entirely from June 21.
"Starting from Thursday, the kingdom will enter a new phase (in dealing with the pandemic) and will gradually return to normal based on the rules of social distancing," Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said on Monday.
Saudi Arabia has reported around 75,000 coronavirus infections and some 400 deaths from Covid-19.
Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year's Hajj -- scheduled for late July -- but they have urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.
Last year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from around the world to participate in the Hajj, which Muslims are obliged to perform at least once during their lifetime.
Makkah's Grand Mosque has been almost devoid of worshippers since March, with an eerie emptiness surrounding the Holy Kaaba -- the large cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.
But on Sunday, the first day of Eid, prayers went ahead and an imam stood on a podium while Saudi security forces, some wearing masks, positioned themselves between rows of worshippers -- their prayer mats placed in well-spaced arcs.