Amid the Coronavirus pandemic which has gripped the entire world and brought it to a near standstill, Saudi Arabia on Thursday has imposed a 24-hour curfew in the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina to combat the spread of COVID-19. The virus has claimed 16 lives and infected more than 1,700 people in the Gulf kingdom. In a statement on Thursday, the Interior Ministry stated that essential services including emergency workers and access to medical care would be exempted from the curfew. The statement also added that cars in those cities' residential districts may only carry one passenger to restrict the transmission of the virus.
Earlier on Tuesday, the state had also asked Muslims to put off their plans for the annual Haj pilgrimage. It has also halted international flights, shut most public places and suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage. The province of Qatif, where Saudi Arabia's first coronavirus cases were reported last month among Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims returning from Iran, has been on lockdown for nearly four weeks.
Shortly after the oil prices in the international market came crashing down, the Finance Minister said that Saudi Arabia will cut down its this year's budget by around five per cent. The kingdom is reportedly facing the heat due to the current lockdown because of coronavirus. Saudi Arabia shut down malls, cinemas, restaurants, and other public places in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of Economy and Planning, Mohammad Al-Jadaan, in a statement released by The Saudi Press Agency, stated that the government worked on preliminary measures to ensure the provision of the financial requirements necessary to implement the preventive and direct measures to deal with the consequences of the epidemic and limit its spread to protect government installations and agencies and the continuity of their work.