Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus, the interior ministry said Tuesday, as infections spike.
The kingdom, which has reported the highest number of virus cases in the Gulf region, is scrambling to limit the spread of the deadly disease.
A full lockdown will be reimposed around the country from May 23-27, the ministry said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency. The period coincides with the Muslim festival that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Most parts of the kingdom were put under full lockdown following the outbreak, but last month the government relaxed the curfew between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
Malls and retailers have been allowed to reopen, except in major hotspots including the holy city of Mecca — where confirmed cases have soared, despite a stringent lockdown.
The health ministry said Tuesday the number of COVID-19 deaths had risen to 264 and confirmed infections to 42,925, while 15,257 people have recovered.
In March, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round “umrah” pilgrimage 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.
Last year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from across the world to participate in the hajj, which Muslims are obliged to perform at least once during their lifetime.
The Arab world’s biggest economy has also closed cinemas and restaurants and halted flights as it attempts to contain the virus.
King Salman has warned of a “more difficult” fight ahead against COVID-19, as the kingdom faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.