Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus curfew FAQ: Your most pressing questions answered

 The Saudi government has announced that the ongoing curfew has been extended in nine additional parts of the Kingdom and issued instructions to citizens and residents how to comply. (SPA/File Photo)
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Updated 08 April 2020

Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus curfew FAQ: Your most pressing questions answered

  • Arab News answers some of your most pressing questions regarding the curfew

RIYADH: The Saudi government announced Monday evening that the ongoing curfew has been extended in nine additional parts of the Kingdom.

Following the announcement of a 24-hour curfew in Makkah and Madinah on Thursday, the Saudi Press Agency announced that Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahrah, Al-Hofuf, Jeddah, Al-Qatif, Taif, and Khobar would all be joining the holy cities in a 24-hour lockdown.

With many concerned about food, groceries and family members in other neighborhoods and cities, here are some of your most pressing questions regarding the curfew answered.

Why is there a curfew?

The Ministry of Interior implemented the curfew in line with the recommendations of the Kingdom’s health authorities in order to preserve the health and safety of citizens and residents.

Am I allowed to leave my house at all?

Citizens are allowed to leave their houses only in cases of “extreme necessity,” such as medical emergencies.

How am I supposed to get groceries?

Citizens are strongly urged to have their groceries delivered to them via an app or other delivery service. However, if necessary, you can leave the house to go shopping, but only inside your own neighborhood within the original curfew hours (6 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

The ministry has implemented a two person per car rule, meaning that in addition to the driver, only one person can be in a car at all times, even within your own neighborhood.

What about other deliveries/goods and services?

Delivery services will be available via smartphone applications during the curfew for food and medicine needs, as well as other essential goods and services that are excluded. Specific exclusions can be known by calling the toll-free number in all regions of the Kingdom (999), except for in Makkah where it is 911.

Which stores will still be open during the curfew?

According to the list provided by the ministry, the following will still be open:

Pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, cooking gas stores, banking services, repair shops, plumber shops, electricians’ shops, air conditioning repair, water delivery services, and septic tank disposal services.

Are there any exceptions to the curfew?

According to the Ministry of Interior, the curfew does not include employees of “vital sectors,”, i.e. the health sector, public health sector, some food and grocery delivery services, pharmacy delivery services, and similar vital services.

Muezzins will be allowed to access mosques to lift the call to prayer during curfew, and workers in diplomatic missions and international organizations residing in the Diplomatic Quarter will be allowed to move during the curfew period to and from their business headquarters in the neighborhood.

Can I travel in or out of any of the above cities?

All travel in or out of any of the above is not allowed.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Stay at home. Wash your hands. Do not let yourself become overwhelmed with despair. The more of us who can do our part by staying at home, the faster this crisis should go by.

Can I get restaurant delivery during the curfew?

Restaurant delivery is still available via any of the food delivery apps (e.g. HungerStation, Talabat), but bear in mind that demand is very high at the moment and it might take a long time for an order to be accepted/delivered. Making food at home is encouraged.

Saudis head out as lockdown eases

Updated 29 May 2020

Saudis head out as lockdown eases

  • First day of phased reopening sees visitors flock to waterfronts and malls

JEDDAH/RIYADH: As the 24-hour-curfew period ended, residents of Saudi Arabia headed back outside on the first day of the government’s three-phase plan to transition back to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as people rushed to take advantage of the newly relaxed measures, streets quickly became crowded and several observers noticed that many were failing to observe social-distancing measures.

Prince Abdulrahman bin Mosaad tweeted: “For there to be traffic in the streets is natural after canceling the 24-hour curfew, but what’s abnormal and unbelievable is the amount of people underestimating the necessity of putting on a face mask and a pair of gloves and keeping a two-meter space between people crowding at stores. This is only the first day. Unfortunately, I don’t think Shawwal 29 (June 21) will be the day we go back to normal.”

In a follow-up tweet, Prince Abdulrahman reminded people that the pandemic does not have a cure or a vaccine yet, and wondered whether people would need to lose a loved one before they came to appreciate the severity of the situation.

University lecturer, Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani (@fattah53), agreed, tweeting: “Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. It’s very simple; don’t go out unless it’s necessary. If you absolutely have to, follow precautionary measures from wearing a mask to keeping an acceptable distance between you and others.”

Abdulaziz Al-Omar (@11a_alomar) also replied with suggestions. “It’s important to monitor and penalize facilities and shops that do not follow precautionary regulations, as well as fines against those who don’t wear a mask and don’t keep their distance from others,” he tweeted.

The hashtag #JeddahNow was quickly trending on Twitter in response to the number of people leaving their homes unnecessarily.

A number of users suggested that individuals neglecting social distancing and going out in public without a mask and gloves would be “more afraid of a SR10,000 fine than they are of the pandemic.”

However, many thought that people were overreacting to the traffic around the city’s corniche.

Sa’ad Mughram (@saad_mghrm) tweeted: “Don’t blame people for traffic. There are families that have been pressed together for three months in small apartments and reef houses. It’s their right to go out and see the sky on a short car ride.”

He added: “Overcrowding stores needs to be addressed, but things can be dealt with calmly, without overreacting and perfectionism from some.”

Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. 

Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani , University lecturer

Some hailed the efforts made by several popular stores around the Kingdom that are enforcing social distancing, such as Madinah’s Starbucks, where a photo circulating on social media showed people lined up with the recommended space between them, demonstrating what was described as “classy behavior.”

Abdullah Al-Humaid, (@abn_humaid) commented: “It’s wonderful to see such awareness displayed in our society. These are people maintaining social distancing while wearing gloves and face masks.”

Meanwhile, many headed onto the streets of Riyadh looking to regain a sense of normality. “Of course, I went out. I took my mom and sister and drove to the nearest mall to run some errands,” 26-year-old Sarah Al-Jasser told Arab News.

However, Al-Jasser said she was unable to enter the shops inside the mall because of long queues. “I was surprised that people were out this early. We were at the mall by 9:30 a.m. and didn’t expect it to be this crowded,” she said.

By 2:30 p.m. most shops and malls were already closed and empty of customers and shopkeepers, abiding by the 3 p.m. curfew.

Rayed Mustafa, 33, told Arab News he believes the situation is still unsafe: “Just because the country is opening up doesn’t mean it’s safe to go out.”  However, that did not stop him from leaving  the house. “I pulled an all-nighter, put on my face mask and gloves and hit the streets at 6:30 a.m. to cruise the city.”

He added that he stayed in his car and was merely hoping to get some fresh air for his mental well-being. “I’ve been confined in a very small apartment for over a month,” he said. “I needed that change of scenery.” 

He said he made sure to abide by the safety and health measures put in place by the Ministry of Health, and refrained from mingling with people.

Mustafa was taken aback by the number of people he saw on the streets. 

“One of the main streets in Riyadh was filled to the brim — some celebrating, others going out for coffee,” he added.

Billboards have been placed around the Kingdom reminding people to comply with the recommended precautions in order to ensure their safety.