COVID-19: GCC states announce new restrictions as cases rise

Cairo: Several member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have recently tightened measures amid concerns over spikes in coronavirus cases.

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Saudi restrictions in place

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Saudi Arabia Thursday announced a raft of restrictions including suspending all events and parties such as weddings and corporate meetings for renewable 30 days.

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As part of the new curbs, to take effect from 10pm (11pm UAE time) Thursday, all entertainment activities will be suspended. Cinemas, indoor entertainment centres, and independent indoor games sites or those in restaurants and shopping malls as well as gyms and sports facilities will be closed for 10 days, which can be extended. During this period, the maximum number of persons attending social events is set at 20.

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Saudi authorities said that indoor orders at restaurants and cafes will be suspended for 10 days that can be extended starting Thursday and services of these facilities will be confined to takeaway orders without any resulting gatherings.

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As a preventive step, funeral prayers in cemeteries will be expanded through the day to reduce the number of mourners present in the place at one time. In addition, places for funeral prayer will be prepared in a way ensuing observance of social distancing during prayer.

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“The measures are based on recommendations by health authorities and coincide with the rise in the epidemic curve in some regions of the kingdom and laxity in following protocols as well as the outbreak of a second wave in the world of the coronavirus,” an official source at the Saudi Interior Ministry said.

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On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia started enforcing a temporary ban on flights from 20 countries in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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The list also includes the UAE, the US, UK, France, Pakistan, India, Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, Lebanon and Portugal.

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Exempted from the ban are diplomats, Saudi citizens, medical practitioners and their families.

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A spokesman for the Saudi Health Ministry this week said that the curve of coronavirus infections has shown an upward trend in recent weeks.

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Saudi Arabia on Wednesday registered 306 virus cases and three deaths bringing the country’s tally of infections to 368,945 and related 6,386 fatalities.

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Kuwait imposes temporary ban on foreigners’ entry

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In Kuwait, authorities have unveiled a set of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. They include suspending entry of non-Kuwaitis for two weeks starting on February 7. All those entering the country will be subjected for a week-long institutional quarantine beginning February 21, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

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The government has also announced the complete shutdowns of health clubs, salons and resorts, and closure of commercial businesses at 8pm (9pm UAE time) until 5am while allowing the home delivery services round the clock. Pharmacies and food stores are exempted.

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All activities related to celebrations, catering and rental of halls and tents will be suspended. All gatherings will be banned as well.

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Earlier this week, Kuwait decided to extend a decision limiting the number of air passengers to the country until the end of February. The decision, which sets the daily number of arrivals at 1,000, was originally due to end on February 6.

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Health Minister Basil Al Sabah described the latest measures as “pre-emptive” to protect the country’s health system due to rise in the numbers of hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

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Kuwait so far has confirmed a total of 167,410 virus cases and related 961 deaths.

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Oman warns of reimposing tough measures

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Oman, meanwhile, has reported an alarming increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit, raising the possibility of reimposing tough restrictions.

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This week, Omani Health Minister Dr Ahmed Al Saidi said that the number of ICU patients was 51 before January 21, but the number has doubled to reach 102 patients. The official urged members of the public to abide by anti-virus precautions to avoid reinstating strict measures.

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On January 31, the sultanate extended for one more week the closure of its land border, which has been in place since January 17, amid concerns over a new strain of the COVID-19. Six cases of the new strain have been detected in the country.Oman so far has recorded a total of 134,856 virus cases and 1,532 related fatalities.

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Qatar partially bans weddings, limits gatherings

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Alarmed over a new wave of COVID-19, the Qatari government has reimposed several restrictions including closure of playgrounds and limiting gatherings. The measures, announced Wednesday, also include a ban on holding wedding parties in indoor or outdoor halls until further notice, except those held in houses with a maximum of 10 persons at the indoor event and 20 in the outdoor places with the Interior Ministry notified of the date and place of the wedding.

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The number of people gathering inside an indoor place must not exceed five and a maximum of 15 persons are allowed at outdoor places during visits and mourning ceremonies.

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Authorities have also decided to keep the operation of public transport, cinemas and theatres at 30 per cent of their total capacity and reducing the operation capacity of educational and training centres as well as kindergartens to 30 per cent.

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Qatar so far has reported a total of 152,491 virus cases and 249 related deaths.

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