Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia extends suspension of flights, public transport

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Saudi Arabia will continue the suspension of international and domestic flights until further notice, with the exception of emergency cases, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, an interior ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

Train, bus and taxi services also remain suspended and people employed in the state sector will continue working from home, the spokesman told a news conference broadcast on state television.

Saudi Arabia also on Sunday partially eased a 24-hour curfew in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic, except for in hotspots including the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

The curfew will be relaxed between 9am and 5pm and malls and retailers will be allowed to reopen in all regions of the kingdom until May 13, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

But a round-the-clock lockdown will be maintained in some areas including Mecca, which has reported the kingdom's highest number of infections in recent days despite being sealed off.

Many countries around the Middle East and North Africa have announced a similar easing of lockdown restrictions as Muslims mark the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

On Saturday the health ministry said deaths from the respiratory illness had risen to 136, while confirmed infections rose to 16,299 with 2,215 people reported to have recovered from the illness.

Last month, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round “umrah” pilgrimage over fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading in Islam's holiest cities.

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