Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia to lift lockdown restrictions from Sunday

Hairdressers and barber shops will be allowed to open for the first time in months

Saudi Arabia will end nightly lockdown measures designed to halt the spread of coronavirus nationwide on Sunday from 6am.

A source from the Ministry of Interior told the Saudi Press Agency lockdown would be lifted while maintaining “utmost care and caution," and fully adhering to precautionary and preventive measures.

The new guidelines end a 15-day lockdown of the Red Sea city of Jeddah between 3pm and 6am after a spike in cases and a months-long lockdown of Makkah.

Makkah was the only Saudi province to be kept in 24-hour lockdown throughout Ramadan, and has remained under a nightly lockdown since Eid, again from 3pm to 6am.

Riyadh and Makkah provinces, where Jeddah is located, have recorded two-thirds of the kingdom’s cases.

Much of the nation has seen a loosening of lockdown restrictions over the past few weeks as part of a phased plan. Sunday’s changes represent the third and final phase.

Mosques, except in Makkah, reopened on May 31 and many offices and businesses were allowed to open their doors. But authorities closed 71 mosques after cases of the virus traced back to them.

On Friday the kingdom announced 1,560 mosques in Makkah Province would be joining the rest of the country in reopening under strict safety measures, nearly three months after they were closed.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Makkah said on Friday it had prepared all mosques to reopen and provided full precautionary measures such as ensuring that prayer rugs are used only once and worshippers remain a safe distance from each other.

People are still required to practice social distancing and wear masks and may not meet in groups of over 50, authorities said.

Fines for those breaking the rules remain in place.

“Returning to normal conditions requires a high degree of responsibility and attention on the part of all us and the need to follow health guidelines,” Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al Rabiah said as the phasing plan was announced in May.

Beauty salons and barber shops will also be allowed to open from Sunday, the kingdom’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs announced on Saturday.

Gyms and sports facilities also looked likely to reopen as the ministry of Sport issued guidelines.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights into the kingdom remain suspended, as well as entry or exit at land borders.

Saudi Arabia announced 3,941 new cases of the illness on Saturday, taking its total to 154,233 with 1230 deaths and 98,917 recoveries.

Updated: June 21, 2020 01:36 PM

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