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Saudi Arabia to lift curfew for most regions

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Saudi Arabia to lift curfew for most regions

A StayHome billboard in Riyadh in March
Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

Curfew in Saudi Arabia will end today except in the cities of Mecca and Jeddah.

All economic and commercial activity will be able to resume and mosques will reopen for prayer. However, the country’s borders remain closed, pilgrimage to Mecca is suspended and businesses that cannot enforce social distancing measures—such as sports and health clubs and cinemas—are likely to remain closed.

The Saudi government has created a new police unit dedicated to enforcing social distancing. Unauthorised family reunions may incur fines of over $2,500 while non-Saudi residents may face deportation and barred entry to the kingdom.

The lockdown, along with the crash in oil prices, is incurring a toll on the Saudi economy. Saudi Arabia’s GDP is forecast to be -2.3% by December, compared to +2.2% in 2018. While authorities are incentivised to resume economic activity, experts believe there will be an increase in the number of cases as curfew measures continue to loosen.

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In order to maintain COVID-19 cases low and sustain the domestic economy, the government will most likely cancel the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages for 2020. This will come at a significant cost—pilgrimages account for $12 billion annually, or 20% of the kingdom’s non-oil GDP.

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