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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia suspends government work in all but vital sectors

Health, security and military will continue to operate, as malls and restaurants also close in the kingdom
Hospitals in Saudi Arabia continue to operate, while most government work is temporarily suspended to contain the spread of coronavirus (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended government work with the exception of the health, security, and military sectors, as part of its efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus

It has also ordered the closure of all malls, restaurants, cafes and public parks. Supermarkets, pharmacies and food delivery companies will be allowed to operate normally.   

As of Monday 16 March, the Gulf kingdom has reported 118 cases of the coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19.

The government has asked all workers to stay at home for 16 days starting from Monday, according to state news agency SPA.

It has announced the reduction of gatherings at government departments, while promoting electronic transactions and service delivery platforms across the public and private sectors.

The private sector has been urged to reduce the number of employees coming into workplaces and to encourage working remotely.  

The country has also suspended all international flights since Saturday, effective for two weeks, to contain the outbreak. 

Saudi Arabia had already halted flights to several countries and closed schools and universities to prevent the spread of the disease. 

The eastern province of Qatif, where most of the kingdom's coronavirus cases have come from, has been temporarily closed off.

Saudi Arabia has taken a number of measures to contain the spread of the disease, include banning the year-long Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

The pandemic has forced countries to impose lockdowns on tens of millions of people as the world seeks to contain the spreading virus. 

Globally, more than 162,000 are infected, and over 6,000 have died.