During the five-day Eidul Fitr holiday later this month, Saudi Arabia will impose a nationwide round-the-clock curfew to counter the coronavirus, the interior ministry said Tuesday as infections increase.
The kingdom, which recorded the highest number of cases of virus in the Gulf area, is scrambling to restrict the spread of the deadly disease.
From May 23-27, a complete lockdown will be re-imposed across the world, the ministry said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The time coincides with the Muslim festival marking the end of the holy Ramadan fasting month.
Most areas of the kingdom were put under complete lockdown after the outbreak but the government eased the curfew between 9 am and 5 pm last month.
Malls and retailers were allowed to reopen, except in major hotspots including Mecca’s holy city — where confirmed cases soared, despite a severe lockdown.
The Ministry of Health said Tuesday the number of COVID-19 deaths rose to 264 and confirmed infections to 42,925, while 15,257 people recovered.
Saudi Arabia halted the year-round pilgrimage “umrah” in March over concerns of the disease spreading in the holiest cities of Islam.
Authorities are yet to decide whether they will continue with this year’s hajj — scheduled for late July — but Muslims have been advised to delay arrangements for the annual pilgrimage for a time.
Last year, some 2.5 million faithful traveled from around the world to Saudi Arabia to engage in the hajj, which Muslims are obligated to undertake at least once in their lives.
The largest economy in the Arab world has also shut down cinemas and restaurants, and halted flights as it tries to contain the virus.
King Salman cautioned against COVID-19 as the kingdom faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and falling oil prices from a “more complicated” battle ahead.