Saudi Arabia extends suspension of flights, public transport

Saudi citizens arriving at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Tuesday -- SPA photo

Saudi Arabia will continue the suspension of international and domestic flights until further notice. This is with the exception of emergency cases, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic; an interior ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Train, bus and taxi services also remain suspended. Besides, people employed in the state sector will continue working from home; the spokesman told a news conference broadcast on state television.

Saudi Arabia also on Sunday partially eased a 24-hour curfew in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic, except for in hotspots including the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

The curfew will be relaxed between 9am and 5pm and malls. Retailers can reopen in all regions of the kingdom until May 13, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

This is with keeping a round-the-clock lockdown in some areas including Mecca; where the kingdom’s highest number of infections is in recent days despite sealing it off.

Many countries around the Middle East and North Africa announced a similar easing of lockdown restrictions. This is as Muslims mark the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

On Saturday the health ministry said deaths from the respiratory illness had risen to 136. While confirmed infections rose to 16,299 with 2,215 people reported to have recovered from the illness.

Last month, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round “umrah” pilgrimage over fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading in Islam’s holiest cities.