JEDDAH: Areas of Saudi Arabia not already placed under 24-hour curfew to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will have the around-the-clock lockdown imposed from Wednesday, a Ministry of Interior source has revealed.
Ministry officials are believed to have brought forward plans to introduce the measure in all parts of the Kingdom, which only allows residents to leave their homes to get medical or food supplies locally between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The revelation came as studies predicted the number of COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia could hit up to 200,000 over the next few weeks.
Commercial activities will be suspended except for vital sectors including pharmacies, food stores, gas stations, banking services, maintenance and operation outlets, plumbing, electricity, air-conditioning, and water-delivery services, and sanitation tanks.
Wherever possible, citizens have been urged to use express delivery services through smart device apps to order food and medical supplies. Restaurants will be allowed to operate until 10 p.m. but deliveries will be permitted using online apps.
Farmers, beekeepers, and owners of livestock, poultry and fish projects will be able to seek authorization to keep their operations running by obtaining a one-time weekly permit issued by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in coordination with the region’s security authorities.
Charity workers and volunteers are exempted from the curfew restrictions.
Ministry of Health spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, on Tuesday told a daily press briefing on the virus outbreak that Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah had predicted a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.
“Four studies carried out by Saudi and international experts expected that the number of cases during the next few weeks will range from 10,000 to 200,000,” said the minister in an earlier televised address.
Al-Aly added that the number of cases was expected to decrease if all instructions were followed. “This number is alarming, and we do not want to reach it. How can we prevent this from happening? Thankfully, it is in our hands. By taking the precautionary measures at the earliest.”
He urged the public to strictly adhere to government directives against social mixing and movement.
On the 24-hour curfew in major Saudi cities, Al-Aly said: “We hope to see promising results of these actions.”
On Tuesday, the global number of COVID-19 cases had reached more than 1.4 million, with 300,759 patients having recovered and 81,049 dying from the infection.
The Kingdom recorded 190 new cases, taking the total to 2,795. Al-Aly said 2,139 people were receiving medical attention while 64 more had recovered bringing the total number of recoveries to 615. Forty-one people in the Kingdom had now died from the virus after three more deaths were recorded on Tuesday.
Al-Aly pointed out that the Ministry of Health had stepped up testing for COVID-19.
Speaking earlier in a TV interview, he said the ongoing preventive measures would continue during and after Ramadan.