Saudi govt seals off region, closes schools, universities

Published March 9, 2020
A Saudi tour guide wears a mask, due to the coronavirus, in front of the historical Salwa Palace, in Diriyah, outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. — AP/File
A Saudi tour guide wears a mask, due to the coronavirus, in front of the historical Salwa Palace, in Diriyah, outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. — AP/File

RIYADH: Saudi authorities cordoned off the eastern region of Qatif on Sunday in a bid to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus as the total number of cases rose to 11.

The lockdown on Qatif, a Shia-majority region and home to around 500,000 people, is the first action of its kind across the Gulf that has confirmed more than 230 coronavirus cases — most of them people returning from pilgrimages to Iran.

“Given that all 11 recorded positive cases of the new coronavirus are from Qatif... it has been decided... to temporarily suspend entry and exit from Qatif,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

The lockdown comes as Saudi Arabia announced it was closing all public and private universities and schools across the country from Monday until further notice.

The country has also suspended Umrah over fears of the disease spreading to Makkah and Madina.

The unprecedented Umrah suspension has raised uncertainty over Haj, scheduled for the end of July Except for essential services such as pharmacies and gas stations, work will stop in all government and private institutions in Qatif, the statement added.

Although the ministry said the lockdown was temporary, it risks fuelling resentment in the flashpoint region whose residents have long accused the government of discrimination, a charge Riyadh denies.

Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province — which includes Qatif — has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 when protesters emboldened by that year’s Arab uprisings took to the streets.

Saudi Arabia has condemned Iran for allowing its citizens entry without stamping their passports.

The Saudi government has reminded its nationals of a standing ban on travel to Iran, as the two countries are locked in a battle for regional supremacy.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2020

Opinion

Modi’s movies
Updated 16 Jun 2021

Modi’s movies

Fascists seek to control cultural production in a country in order to realise the complete and centralised control of power.
Bye bye Bibi?
16 Jun 2021

Bye bye Bibi?

Netanyahu’s ouster doesn’t really spell change.
Debating the budget
Updated 15 Jun 2021

Debating the budget

Parties, too, have grown, it seems, and are being compelled to think about their problematic economic policies.

Editorial

Centre-Sindh tension
Updated 16 Jun 2021

Centre-Sindh tension

Such an adversarial state of affairs is not sustainable without damaging the working of the federation.
16 Jun 2021

Punjab budget

PUNJAB is where the battle for power will be fought in 2023. Punjab is also where PTI parliamentarians are perhaps...
16 Jun 2021

Haj decision for women

WHILE this year’s Haj will again be marked by a limited number of pilgrims, the Saudi government’s decision to...
15 Jun 2021

Middle East’s plight

THE Middle East is geopolitically and economically perhaps the most important region of the world, home to much of...
Thoughtless eviction
Updated 15 Jun 2021

Thoughtless eviction

Promised compensation of Rs20,000 per month for two years is hardly worth the adversity evicted residents have to undergo.
15 Jun 2021

Cinema ‘industry’?

THE vast gap that often exists between the state’s intentions and its actual efficiency was evident in the third...