The novel coronavirus has changed life as we know it pretty quickly and brutally. Countries around the world have taken serious precautionary measures, urging people to stay at home to limit the spread of the virus. 

Canada, the U.S., and the European Union have imposed border restrictions; Lebanon has closed down its airport with plans to reopen on March 29; Jordan has closed its borders, all businesses, and imposed an indefinite curfew on residents, arresting nearly 400 violators over the weekend. And the list goes on and on. 

The latest country to follow in the footsteps of its Arab neighbor is Saudi Arabia, which launched a 21-day curfew as the number of COVID-19 cases in the kingdom reached 511 on Sunday. That day saw a surge of infected patients, with a reported 119 testing positive on March 22. 

Saudi Arabia's imposed curfew will take place from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting March 23 following a royal order. 

The royal order addresses the majority of everyday citizens with the exception of individuals working in certain industries. With the curfew, Saudi Arabia urges "citizens to stay in their homes during the coming period, especially the period of curfew, and not to leave except in cases of extreme necessity," a statement from the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reads.  

Groups and individuals exempt from the curfew come from various sectors, including:

  • Food Sector (supermarkets, meat & poultry shops, bakeries, food factories, etc)
  • Health Sector (pharmacies, hospitals, factories of medical devices, etc) 
  • Transportation Sector (transporting goods, logistic services, etc) 
  • Media Sector 
  • E-commerce 
  • Energy Sector (gas stations) 
  • Financial & Insurance Sector 
  • Telecom Sector (internet and communication network operators) 
  • Water Sector 
Saudi Arabia, KSA, Saudi Arabia coronavirus
People walking in Saudi Arabia with masks covering their face from nose to chin. Source: Nasdaq

Ambulances, for example, are exempt from committing to the curfew as are military and security personnel. 

According to Arabian Business, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) has also instructed all local banks to postpone payments for all public and private health workers who have credit facilities for three months starting April. 

Meanwhile, the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution arrested a person who posted rumors and news from unknown sources on social media about the novel coronavirus. 

Kaaba, Saudi Arabia, Mecca, Mecca empty
The Holy Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Source: Arab News

No deaths as a result of the virus have been reported in the kingdom thus far. However, the number of reported cases in the latter exceeds that of any other Arab country, according to March 23 numbers

The country has suspended all schools, universities, and educational institutions starting March 9 until further notice. Last week, Saudi Arabia also announced the closure of mosques, an exceptional move to limit the spread of the coronavirus as well. 

The Saudi entertainment authority also announced the closure of Riyadh Boulevard and Winter Wonderland.