Saudi Arabia to end virus curfew next month

RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi Arabia said yesterday it will end its nationwide coronavirus curfew from June 21, except in 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 Aidilfitri.

The ministry said it will begin easing restrictions in a phased manner this week, with the curfew relaxed between 6am and 3pm between Thursday and Saturday.

From Sunday until June 20, the curfew will be further eased until 8pm, 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.

In the United Arab Emirates, which has reported more than 30,000 cases and 248 deaths, authorities in Dubai moved to lift restrictions on businesses and shorten a nighttime curfew from today when the Aidilfitri holiday concludes.

Officials said late Monday that retail stores, gyms, cinemas and attractions like the dolphinarium will be allowed to reopen under social distancing and disinfection rules.

Kuwait, which has reported some 22,000 cases and 165 deaths, also said that it would end its total curfew this weekend, with reduced measures to be announced later.