Cairo: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman have introduced more restrictions amid growing concerns of a new wave of the novel coronavirus. The three countries have also intensified crackdowns on violators of health precautions.
Saudi restrictions extended on entertainment, restaurants
Saudi authorities this week intensified their fight against COVID-19, extending by 20 more days restrictions that were imposed 10 days earlier, on gatherings, entertainment activities and restaurant services.
The extension means a continued halt to entertainment activities, closing cinemas, indoor entertainment centres and independent indoor games sites or those in restaurants, and shopping malls as well as gyms and sports facilities, a source at the Saudi Interior Ministry said on Sunday.
Indoor orders at restaurants and coffee shops continue to be suspended for the same duration, with services of those facilities confined to takeaway orders, the source added.
-Suspending all entertainment activities and events;
-Closing cinemas, indoor entertainment centres, independent indoor game places or in restaurants, shopping malls, gyms and sports centres;and
-Suspending dine-in services in restaurants, cafes and the like, and limiting them to takeaways.
During the extension period, the maximum of a gathering on a social occasion must not exceed 20 persons.
The extension went into effect at 10pm on Sunday, bringing the overall restriction duration to 30 days that can be further extended, depending on the epidemiological situation in the country.
The latest measure has been decided to ensure “ideal control” of the pandemic, curb an upward curve of infections due to laxity in following precautions, the source said.
On February 4, Saudi authorities said that dine-in orders at restaurants and cafes are suspended for an extendable 10 days as part of a set of restrictions that followed an increase in COVID-19 cases.
As a preventive step, funeral prayers in cemeteries are distributed through the day to reduce the number of mourners present in the place at one time.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia enforced a temporary ban on flights from 20 countries in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Exempted from the ban are diplomats, Saudi citizens, medical practitioners and their families.
Going online for religious lectures
Saudi authorities have suspended in-present mosque lectures in favour of online lessons. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has also shortened prayer timings and the duration between the Adhan (prayer call) and the start of the prayer to limit the spread of the coronavirus. According to the ministerial directives, the time between the Adhan and performing the prayer is set at 10 minutes for all daily group prayers except for the Fajr (dawn) prayer, which are 20 minutes.
The new rules also include opening mosques for the daily prayers 10 minutes before their start and close the sites of worship 10 minutes after. For the Friday congregation prayers, mosques open 30 minutes before the Adhan and close 15 minutes after the prayer end. The Friday sermon is not to exceed 15 minutes.
Worshippers are requested to use personal prayer rugs, wear the protective face masks and observe social distancing inside the mosques as part of the strict precautions against the coronavirus.
Authorities have recently closed several mosques in several areas of Saudi Arabia after COVID-19 cases were detected among worshippers.
Kuwait’s institutional quarantine for all arrivals
In Kuwait, authorities are bracing for enforcing next week an institutional quarantine to all arrivals in the country, after the end of a temporary ban on non-Kuwaitis’ entry.
Starting from February 21, Kuwait will apply mandatory seven-day hotel quarantine to all travellers – citizens and foreigners - arriving in the country at their expense to curb COVID-19. All passengers must book their hotel stay via the Kuwait Mosafer app prior to their arrival.
Upon the end of the institutional quarantine period, passengers will have to undergo domestic quarantine for seven more days.
-Upon the end of the institutional quarantine period, passengers will have to undergo domestic quarantine for seven more days.
-Shortening the Friday sermon and prayers to a maximum of 15 minutes.
The looming quarantine has boosted demand by Kuwaitis, who are still abroad, for flying home before the measures comes into effect.
The high demand for the home flights is seen as a sign of worry among many Kuwaitis abroad about undergoing the institutional quarantine.
The Health Ministry is worried about expansion of the hotel quarantine due to the limited number of health workers as each hotel will need a medical team, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Anba reported this week, citing official sources.
“The quarantine implementation will first start with citizens, then the expatriates,” a source said. “The matter will depend on the scale of infections, the number of ICU cases and vaccination expansion,” the source added.
The ministry, meanwhile, agreed to vaccinate employees of hotels accredited for the institutional quarantine. They include receptionists as well as housekeeping and room service workers.
The accredited hotels have submitted a proposed quarantine price list to the authorities.
The proposed price list suggests that each tier of hotels have a set price as follows: First tier (5 star hotels) single room KD270 and double KD330 with each meal costing 10KD, second tier (4 star hotels) single room KD180 and double KD240 with each meal costing KD8 and finally third tier (3 star hotels) single room KD120 and double KD180 with each meal costing KD6.
The hotels will designate certain floors or sections for quarantining guests, and all meals will be provided in disposable containers to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Kuwait has recently imposed a host of restrictions following an uptick in the coronavirus cases. The country’s religious authorities have shortened the duration of the Friday sermon and prayers to a maximum of 15 minutes to bring the virus situation under control.
To the same end, the Kuwaiti ministries of health and Municipality announced halting auctions at the fish markets after evidence of overcrowding at the sites.
Videos had surfaced on social media exposing overcrowding at fish markets in violation of the anti-coronavirus measures.
Oman extends land border closure until further notice
Likewise, Oman has toughened its battle to contain COVID-19. On February 7, the Omani authorities extended until further notice the closure of the sultanate’s land borders. The measure came close on the heels of an earlier extension as Oman is trying to curtail an upward trend in its daily COVID-19 infections. The closure has been in place since January 17.
A state supreme committee in charge of tackling COVID-19 said that Omani citizens, who are abroad and wishing to return home via the land crossings, must undergo week-long institutional quarantine.
- Starting from February 15, arrivals in the country undergo mandatory institutional quarantine at their expense;
- Restaurants and coffee shops operate at 50 per cent of their capacity as public parks and beaches are shut down.
As of today (Monday), Oman starts enforcing mandatory institutional quarantine for arrivals in the country. The quarantine cost is to be borne by the travellers. A circular issued by Oman’s Civil Aviation Authority mandates airlines to ensure that they carry a pre-confirmed hotel reservation for a seven-day period without which they will not be allowed to board.
Quarantine stay can be booked in any hotel of choice, according to Oman’s Supreme Committee, although unconfirmed reports had earlier indicated the names of certain hotels that could be booked during the quarantine period.
With an average rate ranging from RO 20 per day for hotel, a person arriving in Oman has to account for this expense in addition to the PCR test on arrival and also at the end of the quarantine period, which is another RO 38 for two tests.
The surge in the country’s COVID-19 case tally has prompted authorities to impose other restrictions. They include obliging restaurants and coffee shops to operate at 50 per cent of their total capacity as well as closing public parks and beaches.