Saudi imposes curfew to curb coronavirus spread, UAE suspends passengers flights
RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will impose a nationwide curfew starting on Monday after reporting a jump of almost a quarter in coronavirus cases, while the United Arab Emirates will suspend all passenger and transit flights to and from the country.
Saudi King Salman ordered a curfew – from 7 pm to 6 am for 21 days – to slow the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported on Monday. The curfew will take effect on Monday evening.
The UAE said it will suspend all passenger and transit flights to and from the country for two weeks over coronavirus fears, state news agency WAM said on Monday. Cargo operations will continue.
The UAE’s ministry of health has decided to close shopping and commercial centres, leaving open pharmacies and supermarkets, along with fish, vegetables and meat markets dealing with wholesalers, WAM reported. It will limit restaurants to delivery services.
WAM said the closures will take effect in 48 hours and will last for two weeks, subject to review and evaluation.
The UAE has urged the public to stay at home except in cases of necessity, including getting supplies, such as food and medicine, or performing “essential jobs”, WAM said.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia recorded 119 new cases of the virus for a total of 511, highest in the Gulf Arab region, the Health Ministry said.
The tally of cases in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council now stands at more than 1,700. Bahrain reported a second death on Sunday, a citizen evacuated from Iran, taking the GCC’s total deaths to four.
The region has expanded measures to combat the spread of the disease. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have taken some of the most drastic steps including halting international flights, suspending work at most institutions and closing public venues.
Gulf governments have also announced stimulus packages to shield their energy-producing economies, which have been hit by a collapse in oil prices. [O/R]
The UAE, the region’s tourism and business hub, approved an additional 16 billion dirhams ($4.4 billion) on Sunday for a total stimulus package of 126 billion dirhams, according to a tweet from its vice president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.
The tourism and hospitality sector in Dubai, the region’s most diversified economy, has been hit hard by the disruption to global travel.
Emirates, based out of Dubai and one of the world’s biggest airlines, said on Sunday it would suspend passenger operations – with the exception of repatriation flights to 13 countries – by Wednesday.