Saudi Arabia has announced that it will end its nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) curfew from 21 June, except in the holy city of Mecca.
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The country’s Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday.
The kingdom, home to the two Holy Mosques in Islam, imposed a full nationwide curfew during Eid el-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
“Starting from Thursday, the kingdom will enter a new phase (in dealing with the pandemic) and will gradually return to normal based on the rules of social distancing,” Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said.
Prayers will be allowed to resume in all mosques outside Mecca from 31 May, the ministry said in a series of measures announced on the official Saudi Press Agency.
The ministry also stated that it will begin easing restrictions in a phased manner this week, with the curfew relaxed between 6 am and 3 pm between Thursday and Saturday.
From Sunday until 20 June, the curfew will be further eased until 8 pm, the ministry added.
The kingdom will lift the lockdown entirely from 21 June.
Saudi Arabia has reported around 75,000 coronavirus infections – the highest in the Gulf region – and some 400 deaths from COVID-19.
In March, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round “umrah” pilgrimage over fears of the disease spreading in Islam’s holiest cities.
That suspension will remain in place, the interior ministry said.
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.