Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Saudi Arabia partially lift nationwide curfew measures from April 26 through May 13; Mecca to remain under full lockdown.

This alert affects Saudi Arabia

This alert began 26 Apr 2020 16:59 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have announced that they will partially lift nationwide curfew measures related to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from April 26 through May 13 for the month of Ramadan. Existing curfews in effect throughout the Kingdom have been reduced and will run 1700-0900 nightly rather than the previous time frame of 24 hours. However, the city of Mecca and its surrounding neighborhoods will remain under full lockdown and a 24-hour curfew until further notice. Residents in areas that are subjected to full lockdown are prohibited from leaving their homes. Essential goods and services will continue to be delivered to these residents. Authorities will also resume some economic activities by allowing some malls and retail stores to reopen from April 29 through May 13. All stores must adhere to social distancing measures. Some stores, such as beauty salons, hairdressers as well as movie theaters, cafes, restaurants, and recreational centers, which cannot meet the social distancing guidelines will remain closed. Authorities have announced that security forces will be deployed to ensure that social distancing is observed; gatherings of more than five people remain banned.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior announced revised operational times for restaurants for the month of Ramadan (April 24-May 24). Restaurants will be open from 1500-0300 across the Kingdom and will only accept delivery or catering orders. The measures could be reversed at the end of Ramadan depending on the disease activity in the coming days and weeks.

Previously enacted restrictions in Saudi Arabia include:

  • Authorities imposed increased movement restrictions on Al-Faisaliah and Al-Fadhliyah districts in Al-Ahsa Governorate, Eastern Province, from April 18 until further notice. The order bans people from entering and exiting the two governorates; however, it does not apply to individuals working in critical industries, such as health and security. Residents will not be allowed to travel beyond the limits of their localities. Drivers are only allowed to have one passenger at any given time. Authorities imposed similar measures on Samtah and Al Dayer governorates in Jazan Province April 17 until further notice.
  • Authorities imposed a complete lockdown on Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, and across the governorates of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif, and Khobar, including several neighborhoods in Medina city from April 10 until further notice. The neighborhoods impacted are Ash-Shuraybat city, Qurban, al-Jumaa, Banidhafar, as well as some unspecified areas of al-Iskan and Bani Khidrah. Residents in the affected areas are not permitted to leave their households; delivery services will provide essential goods and services.
  • Authorities announced March 29 that they indefinitely extended the suspension of international and domestic passenger flights, public transportation, including buses, taxis, and trains, and workplace attendance in nonessential public and private sectors. 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, has been banned since March 26. Officials have excluded essential workers in some public and private sectors from the order.
  • Authorities have shut down universities and religious schools nationwide. The King Fahd Causeway, linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, remains temporarily closed; it is unclear when it will reopen. 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 correspond with similar 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.

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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