Restrictions on gatherings to fight the coronavirus
As the fight continues to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Ministry of Interior has relaxed some of the previous restrictions on movement in Saudi Arabia, but it is important to note the regulations that remain in place, in particular with relation to gatherings of people.
It is prohibited to hold a gathering of more than one family, or a meeting consisting of five people or more in one place when they do not normally reside in one place. This covers any gathering for more than one family inside homes, chalets or farms, as well as nonfamily gatherings, which means any gathering inside homes, farms, camps, chalets, or open areas for people of the same neighborhood.
It also refers to social events, such as wedding parties, seminars and salons, as well as labor gatherings, which includes any group of workers in buildings under construction, or rest houses or farms, other than their accommodation.
In addition, with the resumption of commercial activities such as malls and shops, there are restrictions on the number of people who may be inside at one time, depending on the capacity of the building.
The fine for holding a family gathering that breaches the regulations is SR10,000, ($2,662) and SR15,000 for a nonfamily gathering inside homes, rest houses, farms, camps, chalets or open areas. Weddings, parties, seminars and salons attract a fine of SR30,000 and for labor gatherings the penalty is SR50,000.
Any gathering of shoppers or workers inside or outside a commercial store that exceeds the stipulated number will attract a penalty of SR5,000 for each person in excess of the permitted number, to a maximum of SR100,000.
If any of these offenses is repeated the fine is doubled, and any private premises involved will be closed for three months. In the event of a second repetition, the premises will be closed for six months and the case will be referred to the Public Prosecution.
Anyone who attends a prohibited gathering may also be penalized — SR5,000 for a first offense, SR10,000 for a second offense and prosecution for any subsequent offenses.
Finally, because maintaining and protecting public health is the responsibility of every member of the community, and every individual should be involved in this task, anyone who knows about any gathering that violates the provisions of these regulations is urged to inform the competent authority about the location and time of the event, by calling 999, free of charge.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi lawyer and legal consultant. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif