International

Saudi Arabia lifts nationwide Covid-19 curfew

Saudi Arabia today lifted a nationwide curfew and ended all Covid-19 related restrictions on economic and commercial activities that had been in place since late-March. But the ban on international flights and religious pilgrimages will continue.

The entire country had been under a partial curfew of between 20:00 and 06:00 since 31 May, while its second largest city, Jeddah, had been under a more strict curfew of between 15:00 and 06:00 since 6 June in response to a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases there.

During this period, restrictions were in place on working from offices, dining in restaurants and cafes, gatherings in mosques for prayer, and on movement between regions and cities.

But these have now largely been lifted in accordance with guidance from the health ministry, albeit with renewed calls to the public to abide by all social distancing rules and precautionary measures to contain the spread of the outbreak.

Daily case numbers still remain high in the country, with an average of 4,418 new cases reported every day since 14 June. This is up significantly from an average of 2,379 cases in the first seven days of the month and 1,568 cases in the first seven days of May.

With that in mind, international flights and the entry and exit to and from Saudi Arabia through land and maritime borders remain suspended until further notice. Saudi Arabia enacted a total ban on all international and domestic flights in mid-March, but moved to restart domestic flights on 31 May.

Islamic Umrah pilgrimages and the visiting of holy sites also remains suspended for the time being, although the authorities say this will be reviewed regularly with a view to their resumption. Saudi Arabia has also not yet made an announcement regarding the annual Hajj pilgrimage that is due to begin in late-July. The holy sites draw on average 2.4mn pilgrims to Saudi Arabia every year, of which 68pc travel from abroad, according to Saudi Arabia’s general authority of statistics.

The lifting of the nationwide curfew represents the third and final step of a roadmap that was unveiled by the government late last month aimed at reopening the economy, and should lift domestic demand for transport fuels in what is traditionally the Mideast Gulf’s largest gasoline and gasoil consuming country.

According to the latest data from Joint Organisations Data Initiative (Jodi), Saudi gasoline demand fell by 46pc month-on-month in April – the first full month in which much of the country was under curfew. Gasoline demand averaged 231,000 b/d in April – the lowest monthly average since Jodi records began in 2002. Gasoil demand also fell, but by 12pc month-on-month to stand at 458,000 b/d in April. Saudi Arabia on average consumed 550,000 b/d of gasoline and 529,000 b/d of gasoil in 2019.

By Ieva Paldaviciute

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