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Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus restrictions, opens mosques

Saudi Arabia will gradually ease restrictions and reopen mosques, except in the holy city of Mecca, as it lifts measures it imposed more than two months ago due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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Saudi Arabia will gradually ease restrictions and reopen mosques, except in the holy city of Mecca, as it lifts measures it imposed more than two months ago due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The kingdom will shorten curfew hours, allow people to go back to work and resume domestic flights, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

A 24-hour nationwide curfew enforced this week during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s two major festivals, will be shortened starting on Thursday to between 3 pm and 6 am (1200 and 0300 GMT).

Starting May 31, curfew hours will be shortened to start at 8 pm. Friday and congregational prayers will be allowed in mosques and public and private employees can go back to work.

The ban on travel between cities using private vehicles will be lifted and more businesses, including shopping malls, cafes and restaurants, will reopen.

Businesses where “physical distancing cannot be achieved,” like hairdressers, health clubs and cinemas, will remain closed, the ministry said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Social distancing measures will be in place at all times in public spaces and social gatherings of more than 50 people will remain banned.

On June 21, the kingdom will lift the lockdown and life will return to normal, except in Mecca city, the Interior Ministry added.

Restrictions will remain stricter in Mecca, where a longer curfew will be enforced. Mosques and businesses in the city will reopen after June 20.

The Umrah pilgrimage, suspended since early March, will remain suspended.

It remains unclear if the main Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj, will take place. More than 2 million Muslims head to Mecca every year for the Hajj, which would take place in late July this year.

International flights will continue to be halted, the kingdom said.

The Gulf monarchy has the Arab world’s largest number of coronavirus infections with 74,795 cases and 399 deaths, according to the Health Ministry’s tally on Monday.

SourceDPA
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