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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia to ease curfew restrictions for Ramadan

New times will allow people more time to shop for essential needs within the boundaries of their neighbourhoods
Saudi Arabia has halted international flights, suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, and closed most public places (AFP)

Saudi Arabia plans to ease curfew hours it imposed on several cities to battle coronavirus during the month of Ramadan, to allow people more time to shop for essential needs within the boundaries of their neighbourhoods, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

Currently, people living in areas under 24-hour curfew can go out for healthcare and to supermarkets from 6am to 3pm.

During Ramadan these hours will start from 9am until 5pm, SPA said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia rose by 1,122 in the past 24 hours to 10,484, the health ministry said on Monday, a sharp spike just days before the start of Ramadan. The minsistry reported 103 deaths.

Saudi Arabia has taken several measures to contain the spread of the pandemic that has swept across the world with more than 2.4m confirmed cases and 165,000 deaths.

The kingdom has halted international flights, suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, and closed most public places. Other Gulf states have taken similar precautions.

Saudi Health Minister Dr Tawfiq al-Rabiah on Monday urged citizens and residents to practise social distancing ahead of the start of Ramadan.

"We are used to actively participating in social gatherings and visiting families during Ramadan, but this year it will be different," said Rabiah.

"We should abide by precautionary measures and practise social distancing to keep the virus under control."