Saudi Arabia and UAE escalate measures to contain coronavirus

As the number of infections increases in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia and the UAE extend lockdown and curfew.

    An elderly man wearing a protective mask sits in front of a closed shop in Jeddah, where residents of eight districts now live under lockdown [Ali Ahmad/EPA]
    An elderly man wearing a protective mask sits in front of a closed shop in Jeddah, where residents of eight districts now live under lockdown [Ali Ahmad/EPA]

    Saudi Arabia has announced a lockdown and a partial curfew in seven neighbourhoods in the city of Jeddah starting on Saturday as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. 

    Residents in the seven districts could go out for grocery shopping and medical care between 6am (03:00 GMT) and 3pm (12:00 GMT) and movement in and out of the areas will be restricted, the interior ministry said in a statement.

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    Similar measures have been announced in the past few days in other Saudi cities, including the Gulf port of Dammam, the main entry point for supply to the kingdom's oil industry.

    Saudi Arabia is the worst-hit country by the pandemic among the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, with 29 deaths amid 2,179 cases reported as of Saturday.

    The neighbouring United Arab Emirates is also stepping up efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus by extending an overnight curfew to disinfect public areas. 

    The curfew in the UAE, which was enforced on March 26, has now been extended indefinitely. 

    The UAE's disinfection drive, which consists of spraying streets, parks and public transport facilities, runs from 8pm (16:00 GMT) to 6am (02:00 GMT). People must stay at home during those hours, state-run news agency WAM said late on Friday.

    "The Ministry of Health Prevention and the Ministry of Interior have announced the continuation of the National Disinfection Programme," WAM said.

    The oil-rich federation has reported an uptick in coronavirus cases with 241 infections and one death over the past 24 hours, taking the total confirmed cases to 1,505 and the death toll to 10, according to government tweets.

    In other countries in the Gulf region, Kuwait announced its first death from COVID-19 on Saturday. The total number of people diagnosed with the disease in the country rose by 62 over the past 24 hours to 479, Kuwait's state news agency KUNA said, citing the health ministry. 

    Kuwait and Oman are the GCC countries least affected by the pandemic. Oman reported 277 cases and one death up until Saturday.

    Qatar confirmed 250 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of reported infections to 1,325 and three deaths.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies