|29 March, 2020

Saudi Arabia expands lockdown as coronavirus death toll doubles, German tourists leave UAE

Saudi Arabia applied the same measures to Riyadh, Mecca and Medina last week

City of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Image used for illustrative purpose.

City of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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DUBAI- Saudi Arabia halted entry and exit into Jeddah governorate on Sunday, expanding lockdown rules as it reported four new deaths from a coronavirus outbreak that continues to spread in the region despite drastic measures to contain it.

The Saudi health ministry said four more foreign residents, in Jeddah and Medina, had died from the virus, taking the total to eight. The kingdom confirmed 96 new infections to raise its tally to 1,299, the highest among Gulf Arab states. 

Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain reported more cases, taking the total in the six Gulf Arab countries to over 3,200, with 15 deaths.

Saudi authorities imposed entry and exit bans on Jeddah, after doing so for the cities of Riyadh, Mecca and Medina last week. 

The kingdom late on Saturday extended indefinitely its suspension of international passenger flights and a bar on workplace attendance.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have imposed partial curfews and the UAE has imposed an overnight curfew until April 5 under a nationwide campaign to sterilise streets and public venues.

UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif Al Shamsi announced coronavirus-related fines, including 50,000 dirhams ($13,000) for non-compliance with home quarantine orders and 3,000 dirhams for violating the curfew.

Kuwait and the UAE have also halted passenger flights at main airports. Oman suspended international passenger flights on Sunday.

The UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah said late on Saturday that hundreds of German tourists had been repatriated. Kuwait said it evacuated 97 of its nationals on Sunday from Iran, one of the epicentres of the disease.

Bahrain, which has about 1,000 citizens stuck in Iran, has been struggling to charter aircraft willing to operate repatriation flights.

But Manama said on Sunday it had leased an aircraft to fly back 31 Bahrainis who decided to travel from Tehran to Qatar in an attempt to get home.

Qatar Airways, one of the few airlines maintaining scheduled commercial passenger services, will continue to fly, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters, but warned the carrier could soon run out of cash and seek state support. ($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham)

(Reporting by Yousef Saba, Aziz El Yaakoubi, Alexander Cornwell, Alaa Swilam and Stephen Kalin; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous Editing by Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood) ((ghaida.ghantous@thomsonreuters.com;))

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