Saudi Arabia tightens Covid-19 regulations

Social distancing reimposed at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and Prophet's Mosque

Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that all citizens must wear masks at all times and maintain a social distance from others to limit the spread of the latest coronavirus variant, Omicron.

The kingdom reimposed health measures as countries around the world recorded a rapid increase in numbers of infections.

The new regulations take effect from Thursday morning, according to the Ministry of Interior.

Social distancing was reimposed at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and Prophet's Mosque, state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.

Social distancing measures will be applied to worshippers in prayer areas and pilgrims performing Umrah on the virtual tawaf paths to protect the health and safety of visitors, an official source at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Holy Mosque and the Prophet's Holy Mosque told SPA.

Visitors and workers at the Two Holy Mosques are urged to wear masks and observe access times on their permits.

“We have directed the reimposition for the public to wear masks and apply social distancing measures in all places [closed and open], activities and events,” the ministry said.

Those who do not obey the regulations will face with charges, the ministry said. It also urged people to ensure they are vaccinated against the virus.

The new regulations come after health officials reported an increase in infections in recent days.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health announced 744 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 231 recoveries during the previous 24 hours, with the number of critical cases reaching 43.

It brought the total number of infections in the country 554,665, while the recovery tally reached 541,388. The ministry reported one death, bringing the number of fatalities to 8,874.

Authorities said in early December that coronavirus vaccine boosters would be considered as a condition for entering public places such as shops, cafes and other meeting places, starting in February.

The decision applies to those who are aged 18 and over and those who received their second vaccine dose at least eight months ago. In August, the Ministry of Interior made two doses of the approved vaccine mandatory for people to enter all public places in the kingdom.

The Omicron variant, also known as B. 1.1.529, is a coronavirus strain with an unusually large number of mutations. It was first detected in South Africa, but has since spread around the world.

Updated: December 30th 2021, 4:31 AM