A view of an empty Al-Rajhi Mosque, as Friday prayers were suspended after the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 20 2020. Picture: REUTERS/AHMED YOSRI
A view of an empty Al-Rajhi Mosque, as Friday prayers were suspended after the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 20 2020. Picture: REUTERS/AHMED YOSRI

Riyadh — Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has announced a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew from Monday in a bid to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, the latest in a series of restrictions.

The curfew — from 7pm until 6am — will be imposed for 21 days, the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a royal decree.

The move comes after Saudi Arabia on Sunday said the number of Covid-19 cases had jumped to 511, the highest in the Gulf. The kingdom has reported no deaths so far.

Health-sector employees as well as security and military officials will be exempt from the curfew restrictions, the royal order said.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman warned on Thursday of a “more difficult” fight  against the virus as the kingdom faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.

The Arab world’s biggest economy has shut down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights and suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage as it steps up efforts to contain the deadly virus.

The kingdom unveiled stimulus measures last week amounting to $32bn to support businesses, and said it planned to raise borrowing to 50% of GDP.

Saudi Arabia has also suspended prayers in all mosques except Islam's holiest two sites in Mecca and Medina, a sensitive move in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

The world’s top crude exporter faces plunging oil prices, the mainstay of government revenue, which have slipped to about $25 a barrel to touch multiyear lows on the back of sagging demand due to the virus and a price war with Russia.

More than 1,300 infections have been detected in the Gulf region, with most cases initially identified among travellers returning from Iran, one of the world's worst-affected countries.

AFP