ANKARA: Saudi Arabia on Thursday declared a 24-hour lockdown in all parts of Makkah and Medina cities as part of measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“The 24-hour curfew will be imposed in all parts of the cities of Makkah and Medina, with a ban on entry and exit from both cities,” the Saudi Interior Ministry said on Twitter.
The lockdown starts from Thursday “until further notice”.
All commercial activities inside the residential neighbourhoods of the two cities were also prohibited, except for pharmacies, food products stores, gas stations and banking services, the ministry said.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 180 countries and regions, according to US-based Johns Hopkins University.
Its data shows the number of confirmed cases worldwide have surpassed 962,900, with the death toll over 49,100 and more than 202,700 recoveries.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj minister asked Muslims on Tuesday to temporarily defer preparations for Hajj amid uncertainty over the pandemic, AFP reported.
Earlier this month, the kingdom suspended Umrah over fears of the new coronavirus.
“Saudi Arabia is fully ready to serve pilgrims,” Hajj minister Mohammad Benten told the state-run Al Ekhbariya television.
“But under the current circumstances, as we are talking about the global pandemic […] the kingdom is keen to protect the health of Muslims and citizens and so we have asked our brother Muslims in all countries to wait before doing Hajj contracts until the situation is clear.”
Saudi Arabia has advanced to 3pm its curfew in three areas, starting from Friday until further notice, state news agency SPA said, citing a senior official of the interior ministry.
The measure in the city of Dammam, and the governorates of Taif and al-Qatif, aims to rein in the virus, as the kingdom has recorded 1,885 infections and 21 deaths, the most among any of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.