20 March 2020 - 12:51
News ID: 449687
A
Saudi authorities have tightened restrictions on religious gatherings outside two main mosques in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina as they struggle to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus in the country.

RNA - In a decree issued Thursday, the Kingdom said all five daily prayers as well as weekly Friday prayers conducted in the overflow area adjacent to the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina will be suspended until further notice.

Authorities said the measure, which came on top of a Tuesday ban on prayers in other mosques, were meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

A total of 274 people have been tested positive for the virus in Saudi Arabia, although authorities believe the number of infections could rise rapidly with 36 new cases identified on Thursday. So far, no deaths have been reported there.

The government also announced earlier in the day that it had canceled “Jeddah Season,” a weeks-long entertainment event slated for June and July which is normally to depict a modern image of the closed country.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, an ageing monarch rarely seen in public events, also addressed the nation on Thursday to express his concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are living through a difficult period in the history of the world, but we are fully aware that it will pass despite its cruelty, bitterness and difficulty,” said King Salman on the state TV while urging the public to adhere to official directives.

The spread of the virus in Saudi Arabia could inflict huge losses on the country’s economy as it relies on pilgrimage to holy sites as a major source of revenue.

The Kingdom has already lost billions of dollars due to a steep fall in the global prices of oil amid a spat with rival crude producer Russia and lower demands in the markets as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

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