Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia to treat patients for free
The number of cases and deaths across the Gulf has increased sharply over past few days
King Salman has announced coronavirus patients in Saudi Arabia would not be charged for treatment as the number of cases in the kingdom continues to increase, outpacing the rest of the Gulf countries.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said King Salman ordered “free treatment to all coronavirus casualties, whether citizens, residents or those who have violated residency regulations”.
Ministry spokesman Mohammed Al Abdulaali said 154 confirmed infections were recorded in Saudi Arabia in the past 24 hours, bringing the kingdom's total to 1,453.
Mr Abdulaali said 22 cases were in intensive care. There have been no deaths since four were announced on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia has tightened a curfew across the country over the past week, bringing it forward from 6pm to 3pm on Sunday.
Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah have been sealed off.
Authorities are advising citizens not to hoard food, saying supply flows are secure.
More than five million illegally stockpiled medical masks were seized in two locations in the kingdom.
On Monday, Bahraini authorities warned food suppliers against price gouging, saying some merchants have been holding back stock.
Bahrain's Attorney General Ali bin Fadl said the government seized three large storage sites for food because their owners were holding back supplies to drive up prices.
He told Bahrain's official news agency the government would “immediately and decisively combat anyone who dares mess with food security, or takes advantage of these exceptional circumstances”.
He said offenders would face up to five years in jail.
Bahrain has recorded more than 500 cases and four deaths from coronavirus, World Health Organisation data shows.
The country has a population of about 1.5 million.
The UAE announced two more deaths and 41 new cases on Monday.
There is a total of five deaths and 611 confirmed cases in the country, which is also under curfew.
Kuwait said 11 new cases were recorded, bringing its total to 266.
Omani authorities announced details on its coronavirus cases, saying 14 per cent of those officially confirmed as being infected were in hospital.
Health Minister Ahmed Al Saidi said of 23 patients in hospital, three were in intensive care.
The age group of at least 179 cases in the country is between 16 and 59 years old, he told Sultanate of Oman Television.
“We cannot predict when the coronavirus crisis will be over,” Mr Al Saidi said.
Updated: March 31, 2020 11:55 AM