COVID19: Uncertainty over hajj as Saudi Arabia slams lockdown on Mecca, Medina

Saudi Arabia on Thursday extended curfew restrictions on Islam’s two holiest cities to 24 hours to stem the spread of coronavirus as the number of deaths from the disease rose to 21.

The announcement comes amid uncertainty over the hajj which is due to take place at the end of July, after authorities this week urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.

“Full 24-hour curfew in Mecca and Medina starting from today until further notice,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing an interior ministry source.

Municipal workers are pictured in empty white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque, on March 5, 2020. – Saudi Arabia today emptied Islam’s holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus, an unprecedented move after the kingdom suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage. (Photo by ABDEL GHANI BASHIR / AFP)

The cities were earlier under a 15-hour daily curfew.

Authorities have already sealed off Mecca and Medina along with Riyadh and Jeddah, barring people from entering and exiting the cities as well as prohibiting movement between all provinces.

Saudi Arabia, which has reported the highest number of infections in the Gulf, is scrambling to limit the spread of the disease at home.

On Thursday the health ministry said the deaths from the illness had risen to 21 while 1,885 infections were reported.

AFP

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