On Tuesday, April 21, Saudi officials announced a nightly curfew nationwide ahead of Ramadan, which is expected to start on Friday, April 23, and end on Saturday, May 23. The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) curfew is from 17:00 to 09:00 (local time). Therefore, residents in areas that were not previously under curfew may leave their homes between 09:00 and 17:00. Areas with preexisting curfews may leave their homes for essential goods and services within the same hours only, though must remain in their neighborhoods to do so. These areas include al-Khobar, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Qatif, Riyadh, Tabuk, and Taif, as well as the Samtah and Al-Dayer districts in Jizan province. A maximum of two people are permitted to occupy one vehicle during this period. All but essential commercial activities are prohibited during the duration of the restrictions in these areas.
Areas under complete health isolation will not be permitted to leave their homes. These areas include Medina's al-Shuraybat, Qurban, al-Jumuah, Banidhafar, some areas of al-Iskan, and Bani Khidrah districts.
In addition, officials extended a ban on public prayer during Ramadan to curb the spread of COVID-19. Prayers will take place in the country's largest mosques though with no worshippers.
The ban on movement into and out of Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina continues and travel between all 13 provinces is prohibited. An indefinite suspension of international passenger flights is in place, as well as a temporary suspension of domestic flights, public buses, and some taxi and train service. Only businesses providing vital food, health, or utility services will remain operational. Malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and public parks are also closed.
As of Wednesday, April 22, there have been 11,631 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the kingdom, with 109 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the outbreak as a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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