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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia calls for compliance as daily case tally breaks record

Saudis asked to follow guidelines to prevent spread of virus as daily cases increase to more than 4,000 for first time
A couple collects an order from a shopping mall cafe in Riyadh after the easing of some restrictions earlier this month (AFP)

Saudi Arabia called on people to comply with health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on Sunday, as its daily tally of cases rose above 4,000 for the first time.

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health reported 4,233 new coronavirus cases, which brings the total to 127,541, with 972 deaths, the highest among the six Gulf Arab states, Reuters said.

Saudi Arabia, which has a population of about 30 million, allowed employees to return to offices, commercial centres to reopen, and prayers at mosques to resume in a three phase plan that began last month. A curfew is due to end by 21 June.

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"There are two paths before us. The average infection rate could rise if people continue not to comply, or we could bring the rate back down," a ministry spokesman said.

The move follows a similar warning from Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran will reimpose restrictions to stem a surge in coronavirus cases if health regulations are not observed. After gradually relaxing its lockdown, Iran has seen a sharp rise of new infections.

The Yemen embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh, meanwhile, is closing indefinitely amid several confirmed cases of the coronavirus among staff, Al Jazeera reported.

Similarly, the Philippine embassy announced that from Sunday, its office for labour affairs will close after a number of employees were tested for the coronavirus and six people were confirmed positive, Al Jazeera said.

The office is being sterilised and employees were working remotely, according to the embassy.

Saudi authorities had re-imposed curfew hours in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on 5 June and suspended work at offices for two weeks as the number of infections there increased.

"We will intervene or apply additional measures in any region that requires it," the ministry spokesman said during a virtual news briefing.

The Saudi capital Riyadh recorded the biggest spike in the last 24 hours, with 1,735 more infections, followed by Jeddah and the holy city of Mecca - with more than 300 each.

The total number of cases in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is more than 326,760, with 1,770 deaths, Reuters' calculations show.

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