Saudi Arabia’s new Covid-19 rules and what they mean

New restrictions come two months after measures in the kingdom were eased

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

Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf nations, has reimposed tighter coronavirus restrictions as the latest Omicron variant spreads around the world.

Although the number of daily cases has increased, a spike has not yet been reported. Authorities have instructed that new rules be followed to avoid the spread of the new variant and limit situations that enable rapid infections.

Here are the latest rules and where they apply:

Masks

On Wednesday, the Saudi government made masks mandatory again in closed and open spaces. It reminded residents and civilians to abide by social distancing rules to limit the spread of Omicron.

“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 government said.

Saudi Arabia eased restrictions in October, where it announced that masks would no longer be mandatory in open spaces for people who are fully vaccinated.

People were also allowed to congregate normally and at full capacity in dining areas, cinemas and other public areas, the government announced at the time.

Limits on the number of people attending weddings and other private gatherings were also removed, although precautionary measures were required.

Grand Mosque

The view of the Kaaba’s vicinity will look different from Thursday morning after social distancing became mandatory at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque in Madinah.

Effective from noon prayers, worshippers must follow social distancing stickers to guide them as authorities ensure that the rules are followed.

People performing the Umrah pilgrimage will have to abide by these new measures while wearing masks and stick to the hours permitted to them, the state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.

New figures

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.

That brought the total number of infections in the country 554,665, while the recovery tally reached 541,388. The ministry reported one death, taking 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.

Vaccines and violations

Saudi authorities once again encouraged residents to take their Covid-19 booster shots days after the Ministry of Commerce revealed that proof of vaccination will be required to enter shops and retailers across the country.

The Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that 50 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered thus far.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Interior said that 1,880 violations of coronavirus protocols were recorded in the previous week, with the highest number in Madinah, followed by the capital, Riyadh, and Makkah.

Updated: December 30th 2021, 9:50 AM