Saudi Arabia’s health minister has warned the number of COVID-19 cases in the country could reach 200,000 in coming weeks.
As of Tuesday, the kingdom registered a total of 2,795 coronavirus infections, including 41 deaths.
“Within the next few weeks, studies predict the number of infections will range from a minimum of 10,000 to a maximum of 200,000,” health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah was cited as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia extended the duration of daily curfews in four governorates and five cities to 24 hours.
The kingdom imposed round-the-clock lockdowns in the capital Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran and Hofuf, the interior ministry said on Twitter.
The same measures were also imposed on the governorates of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Khobar, the ministry added.
Authorities had already sealed off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, barring people from entering and exiting as well as prohibiting movement between all provinces.
Last month, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round “Umrah” pilgrimage over fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading to Islam’s holiest cities.
Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year’s Hajj, scheduled for the end of July. Last week, authorities urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.
Last year, about 2.5 million people travelled to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if able.
The Arab world’s biggest economy has also closed down cinemas, malls and restaurants and halted flights as it steps up efforts to contain the virus.
King Salman has warned of a “more difficult” fight ahead against the virus, as the kingdom faces the economic double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.