Riyadh Saudi Arabia
An aerial view shows the highway on the first day of Eid Al Fitr in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on May 24, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Saudi Arabia has announced it is going to ease some restrictions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus, allowing movement and resumption of some economic and commercial activities, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday citing an official source at the Interior Ministry.

Under the new measures, domestic flights will be resumed while mosques, restaurants and cafes will be reopened. Work attendance will also be permitted, but Umrah pilgrimage will remain temporarily suspended.

The easing of restrictions will be carried out in a phased manner, with the first phase beginning on Thursday (May 28) and ending on May 30.

First phase

In the first phase, movement within and between all regions of the Kingdom in private cars will be allowed from 6.00am to 3.00pm except in Mecca. Economic and commercial activities will be resumed in retail and wholesale shops and malls. However, beauty salons, barber shops, sports clubs, health clubs, entertainment centres and cinemas will continue to be closed due to social distancing concerns.

Second phase

In the second phase, starting May 31 and ending June 20, movement is allowed from 6.00am until 8.00pm in all areas of the Kingdom, except in Mecca. All congregational prayers, including Friday prayers, will resume in all mosques across the Kingdom except in Mecca.

The suspension of workplace attendance will end, allowing all employees in ministries, government entities and private sector companies to return to working from their offices provided they follow strict precautionary guidelines.

The suspension on travel between regions in the Kingdom using various transport methods will no longer be in place. Airlines will be allowed to operate domestic flights if they adhere to precautionary measures set by the civil aviation authority and the Ministry of Health. The suspension of international flights, will, however, continue until further notice.

Restaurants and cafes serving food and beverages can reopen, but beauty salons, barber shops, sports clubs, health clubs, entertainment centres and cinemas will be barred from reopening in the second phase. The ban on social gatherings of more than 50 people, such as weddings and funerals, will also continue to remain in force.

Third phase

In the third phase commencing on June 21, the Kingdom will return to “normal” conditions as it was before the coronavirus lockdown measures were implemented.

Meanwhile, in Mecca, the first phase measures will be implemented between May 31 and June 20, and the second phase will begin on June 21. Friday prayers and all congregational prayers will continue to be held in the Grand Mosque, only to be attended by Imams and the employees.

Health strategy

Earlier, Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al Rabiah said Saudi Arabia has developed a two-pronged strategy for the next stage in its efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The strategy will focus on enhancing the capacity of hospitals to serve critical cases and intensifying mass testing for an early access to infected cases, Al Rabiah said.

“As we move from one stage to another based on a careful health assessment, it gives us space to revise the strategy and review the course whenever the need arises,” the minister added.

He further said that the Kingdom would enter a new stage starting from next Thursday focusing on the aspect of social distancing and would gradually ease measures until the return of normal life.

“Returning to normal conditions requires a high degree of responsibility and attention on the part of all us and the need to follow health guidelines,” Al Rabiah added.

Saudi Arabia has so far reported 76,726 coronavirus cases in the country with more than half of them recoveries (48,450 overall). The Kingdom has also confirmed 411 deaths in total.