Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia to introduce full lockdown during Eid holidays

There are more than 42,000 cases of the virus in the kingdom

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Saudi Arabia will introduce full-day lockdowns and curfews across the country to contain the coronavirus during this year's Eid holidays, from May 23 until May 27, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

The decision for the holidays, which follow the end of Ramadan, comes after a sharp rise in infections.

Although most parts of the kingdom were put under full lockdown following the outbreak, the government last month relaxed the curfew between 9am and 5pm.

Until the end of Ramadan, all economic activities will stay open and people can continue to move freely between these hours. However, the government did not ease restrictions in areas where cases were high.

Makkah, for example, remains under full lockdown and movement to and from neighbourhoods in lockdown remains barred.

The ministry stressed the need to adhere to the procedures for social separation, including preventing gatherings of five or more people, to avoid penalties.

Saudi Arabia has reported the highest number of virus cases in the Gulf region at 42,925 with 264 deaths.

For three consecutive days, the country reported more than 1,900 daily cases. Almost half of all deaths in the kingdom have occurred in the past two and a half weeks.

In March, the kingdom suspended the Umrah over fears of the disease spreading in Islam's holiest cities.

Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year's Hajj, scheduled for late July, but they have urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.

King Salman has warned of a "more difficult" fight ahead against Covid-19 as the country faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and reduced oil prices.

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