RIYADH, March 23, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Streets in Riyadh were deserted Monday
as Saudi Arabia implemented a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew to limit the
spread of the new coronavirus, the latest in a series of restrictions as
Police cars warned people over loudspeakers to stay off the streets after
the 11-hour curfew went into effect at 7 pm (1600 GMT) following a royal
order from King Salman.
The curfew, which state media said will be imposed for 21 days, comes as
Saudi Arabia reported 562 infections — the highest in the Gulf. The kingdom
has reported no deaths so far.
Transgressors will be fined 10,000 Saudi riyals ($2,663) and could face
jail for repeated breaches, the interior ministry said.
Health sector employees as well as security and military officials will be
exempt from the curfew restrictions, according to the royal order.
King Salman warned on Thursday of a “more difficult” fight ahead against
the virus, as the kingdom faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and
crashing oil prices.
The Arab world’s biggest economy has closed down cinemas, malls and
restaurants, halted flights and suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage as
it steps up efforts to contain the deadly virus.
Last week, the kingdom unveiled stimulus measures amounting to 120 billion
riyals to support businesses and said it plans to raise borrowing to 50
percent of GDP.
Saudi Arabia has also suspended prayers inside all its mosques except the
holiest two sites in Islam in Mecca and Medina, a sensitive move in the
deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.
The world’s top crude exporter faces plunging oil prices, the mainstay of
government revenue, which have slipped to around $25 a barrel to touch multi-
year lows on the back of sagging demand due to the virus and a price war with
More than 1,300 coronavirus infections have been detected in the Gulf
region, with most cases initially identified among travellers returning from
Iran — one of the world’s worst affected countries.