Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Saudi Arabia to lift restrictions on movement into and out of Qatif Governorate from April 30. Nationwide 1700-0900 curfew remains in force.

This alert affects Saudi Arabia

This alert began 29 Apr 2020 23:57 GMT and is scheduled to expire 24 May 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 once more allow movement into and out of Qatif Governorate beginning April 30, within the limits of the daily curfews that remain in force. Qatif Governorate, located in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, has been under lockdown since March 8 as part of the kingdom's efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Most existing curfews in effect throughout Saudi Arabia have been reduced through May 13 for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and will 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 through May 13. All stores must adhere to social distancing measures. Businesses that cannot comply with social distancing guidelines must remain closed. Security forces have been deployed to ensure that social distancing is observed; gatherings of more than five people remain banned.

The city of Mecca and its surrounding neighborhoods remain under full lockdown until further notice. Residents of areas under full lockdown are prohibited from leaving their homes, with essential goods and services being delivered to them.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior has implemented revised business hours for restaurants during Ramadan (April 24-May 24). Restaurants may be open from 1500-0300 across the Kingdom, but must only accept orders for delivery or catering. The measures could be reversed at the end of Ramadan, depending on the disease activity in the coming days and weeks.

Other restrictions in force in Saudi Arabia include:

  • 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 two governorates; individuals working in critical industries, such as health and security, are exempt. Residents are prohibited from traveling outside their municipalities. Drivers are only allowed to have one passenger at any given time. Similar measures are in force in Samtah and Al Dayer governorates in Jazan Province until further notice.
  • 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. Residents in the affected areas are not permitted to leave their homes, with essential goods and services being delivered to them.
  • 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 country'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 UAE 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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