Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Saudi Arabia to impose nationwide 24-hour curfew for Eid Al-Fitr to stem spread of COVID-19. Additional restrictions likely.

This alert affects Saudi Arabia

This alert began 14 May 2020 14:20 GMT and is scheduled to expire 09 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, increased security

Summary
Authorities in Saudi Arabia will impose a nationwide 24-hour curfew during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays from May 23-27 as part of the Kingdom's efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The current measures will resume once Eid Al-Fitr has commenced.

A series of nationwide preventative measures remain in place in Saudi Arabia, and include:

  • Authorities eased certain restrictions elated to COVID-19 in Samtah and Al-Dayer governorates, Jazan Province, May 11. The full lockdown measures, which included a 24-hour curfew, will be lifted in the two governorates; residents will now be allowed freedom of movement between 0900 and 1700.
  • Authorities also lifted the full lockdown measures in Medina's six districts of Al-Shuraibat, Bani Dhafar, Qurban, Al-Jumah, parts of Al-Iskan, and Bani Khadrah May 9. Residents in these districts are now allowed freedom of movement between the hours of 0900-1700; however, domestic travel in or out of Medina remains banned. Saudi authorities had imposed full lockdown measures in several parts of Medina Province to combat the spread of COVID-19 March 27.
  • A 24-hour curfew and the barring of entry and exit from Baysh Governorate in Jazan Province is in effect from May 12 until further notice.
  • Authorities banned gatherings of more than five people from May 7 until further notice. The new restrictions prohibit residents from congregating in shopping malls and retail stores. A newly formed police unit will enforce the new decrees; violators will be subject to fines and disciplinary action.
  • Authorities barred entry and exit to Dammam's Second Industrial City from May 3 until further notice. Officials will allow cargo shipments to enter and exit the city; vital factories in the area will be permitted to operate at one-third capacity. Officials lifted a previous lockdown imposed on Dammam's al-Atheer neighborhood May 2.
  • Authorities allowed movement into and out of Al-Qatif Governorate from April 30, within the limits of the daily curfews that remain in force. Al-Qatif Governorate, located in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, had been under lockdown since March 8.
  • Most existing curfews throughout Saudi Arabia have been reduced for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and will now run 1700-0900 nightly, rather than the previous time frame of 24 hours. Authorities will also resume some economic activities by allowing some malls and other retail establishments to reopen from April 29-May 13. All stores must adhere to social distancing measures. Businesses that cannot comply with social distancing guidelines must remain closed. Restaurants may open 1500-0300 nationwide, but must only accept orders for delivery or catering during Ramadan. Authorities could reverse the measures at the end of Ramadan, depending on the disease activity in the coming days and weeks.
  • The city of Mecca and its surrounding neighborhoods remain under full lockdown until further notice. Authorities prohibit residents of areas under full lockdown from leaving their homes, with officials delivering essential goods and services.
  • Movement restrictions remain in effect in Al-Faisaliah and Al-Fadhliyah districts in Al-Ahsa Governorate, Eastern Province, until further notice. No one is allowed to enter or leave the governorate; individuals working in critical industries, such as health and security, are exempt. Authorities prohibit residents from traveling outside their municipalities. Drivers are only allowed to have one passenger at any given time.
  • Complete lockdowns are in effect in Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, and across Jeddah, Taif, and Khobar governorates until further notice. Certain neighborhoods in Medina are also under a similar lockdown. Authorities are prohibiting residents in the affected areas from leaving their homes, with officials delivering essential goods and services.
  • International and domestic passenger flights, public transportation - including buses, taxis, and trains - and the operations of nonessential government agencies and private businesses remain suspended indefinitely. The measures do not apply to transport associated with vital sectors, including health, cargo, and energy.
  • Domestic travel in and out of all the Kingdom's 13 provinces, as well as the cities of Riyadh, Mecca, and Medina remains banned. Essential workers in some public and private sectors are exempt.
  • Universities and religious schools remain closed nationwide. The King Fahd Causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remains closed indefinitely. Land border crossings with Kuwait, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates remain closed until further notice. The closures do not apply to commercial transport.


Authorities could introduce further restrictive measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic with little warning; such measures could be ambiguous and occasionally contradictory.

Background and Analysis
The Saudi government's preventive measures are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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