Saudi Arabia tightens curfew imposed to contain coronavirus

A general view shows an empty street after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 24, 2020. (Reuters Photo)

Saudi Arabia is tightening a partial curfew imposed nationwide to contain the spread of the coronavirus, barring entry or exit from Riyadh, Mecca and Medina as well as movement between all provinces starting on Wednesday, state news agency SPA reported.

The orders, approved by King Salman, also added four hours in the three cities to the 21-day curfew that began on Monday, so that it will start at 3pm instead of 7pm as of Thursday, SPA said.

Saudi Arabia instituted the curfew on Monday after registering a jump of almost a quarter in infections. It reported its first death on Wednesday, in Medina, and 205 new cases taking its total to 767.

It has taken drastic measures against the outbreak, including halting international flights, suspending the Umrah year-round pilgrimage, closing mosques, schools, malls and restaurants, and imposing a nighttime curfew.

The curfew and other restrictions have altered the rhythm of daily life in the country of some 30 million, many of whom enjoy late-night gatherings at coffee shops or private homes.

Nasif Erisik, a Turkish resident who plays cards most nights with friends at one of their homes, said the group has resorted to online gaming to keep in touch.

"Unfortunately, corona has impacted our lives. It changed our habits and everything in our lives," he told Reuters.

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