Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia puts Makkah and Madinah under 24-hour curfew

It follows a request for pilgrims to temporarily defer trips to the holy sites

FILE PHOTO: Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque at the end of their Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 13, 2019. Picture taken August 13, 2019. REUTERSUmit Bektas/File Photo
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Saudi Arabia has tightened its coronavirus curfew to 24 hours a day in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah as it also announced five new deaths from the pandemic. 
The curfew previously lasted for 15 hours a day, but the new rules are set to be in place "until further notice", Saudi Press Agency said.

Makkah and Madinah, along with Riyadh and Jeddah, have already been sealed off by authorities, barring people from entering and exiting the cities as well as prohibiting movement between all provinces.
Cars in the cities may only carry one passenger to limit transmission of the virus.
Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Al Abdulaali said the new fatalities bring the number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in the Kingdom to 21.
Mr Al Abdulaali said 165 new confirmed infections have been registered in the last 24 hours, nearly two-thirds of which occurred in Makkah and Madinah.
The total number of cases in the Kingdom has reached 1,885.

Saudi Arabia, which has a population of 30 million, has taken drastic steps to contain the spread of the virus. 
It announced in March the halting of international flights and the closure of most public places.

The tighter curfew comes as authorities this week urged Muslim pilgrims to temporarily defer preparations to travel to the holy sites. The suspension of the year-round Umrah pilgrimage had previously been announced and on Tuesday, the Kingdom asked Muslims to put plans for the annual Haj pilgrimage on hold pending more clarity about the pandemic.
Some areas in Makkah and Madinah were already under full lockdown, but elsewhere the curfew had been between 3pm and 6am.
Bahraini authorities on Thursday announced 66 new cases of the coronavirus among foreign labourers.
The infections were detected among an undeclared number of isolated labourers on the island to guard against the spread of the pandemic.
The Health Ministry said the 66 were among workers who were isolated in the Slamabad neighbourhood.
They were transported as soon as their infections were discovered to another quarantine zone, the ministry said.
The authorities repeated on Thursday statements denying that the coronavirus had spread among the migrant labour population.
"There is no spread of the virus among the labourers," the official news agency said.
Oman also announced 21 new cases of the disease, bringing the total to 231.
Earlier this week, Omani officials announced the first coronavirus-related death amid the global pandemic. It was a 72 year-old Omani citizen. 
The health ministry said the number of people who have recovered from the virus has now reached 57.