Saudi Arabia partially eases coronavirus restrictions, but keeps Mecca curfew
According to the royal order, from Wednesday, shops will also be allowed to open and some factories will resume operations. But a 24-hour curfew in Mecca and in previously isolated neighbourhoods has been maintained.
Saudi Arabia eased some of its restrictions on Sunday. King Salman issued an order to partially lift the curfew in all regions of the kingdom, from 9 am to 5 pm, starting Sunday through Wednesday May 13.
But a 24-hour curfew in Mecca and in previously isolated neighbourhoods has been maintained, state news agency (SPA) said early on Sunday.
The eased restrictions, which cover the first two weeks of Ramadan, won't apply to places where social distancing can't be maintained such as gyms and restaurants. According to the order, from coming Wednesday, shops will be allowed to open and some factories will resume operations.
The cities of Mecca and Medina and previously quarantined neighbourhoods will remain under lockdown.
More than 16,000 cases have been confirmed and 136 people have died in the country.
The royal order also emphasized a continuation of preventing any activity in those places that does not implement social distancing, including beauty clinics, barber salons, sports and health clubs, recreational centres, cinemas, beauty salons, restaurants and cafes, among other activities.
The holy month of Ramadan began on Friday with Islam's holiest sites in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere largely empty of worshippers as the coronavirus crisis forced authorities to impose unprecedented restrictions.
Mecca's Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina - the religion's two holiest locations - will be closed to the public during the fasting period.
During Ramadan, Muslims the world over join their families to break the fast at sunset and go to mosques to pray. But the pandemic has changed priorities, with curbs on large gatherings for prayers and public iftars, or meals to break the fast.
Prayers from inside the mosque at Mecca on the first evening of Ramadan were restricted to clerics, security staff and cleaners, in a ceremony broadcast live on television.