Saudi calls for compliance as daily virus cases rise above 4,000

Muslim worshippers wear masks after the noon prayers outside the Grand Mosque in Mecca on March 7. (AP pic)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia called on people to comply with health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on Sunday, as its daily tally of cases rose above 4,000 for the first time.

The Saudi Arabian health ministry reported 4,233 new coronavirus cases to bring the total to 127,541, with 972 deaths, the highest among the six Gulf Arab states.

Saudi Arabia, which has a population of some 30 million, allowed employees to return to offices, commercial centres to reopen and prayers at mosques to resume in a three-phase plan which began last month.

A curfew is due to end by June 21.

“There are two paths before us. The average infection rate could rise if people continue not to comply, or we could bring the rate back down,” a health ministry spokesman said.

The move follows a similar warning from Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran will reimpose restrictions to stem a surge in coronavirus cases if health regulations are not observed.

After gradually relaxing its lockdown, Iran has seen a sharp rise of new infections.

Saudi authorities re-imposed curfew hours in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on June 5 and suspended work at offices for two weeks as the number of infections there increased.

“We will intervene or apply additional measures in any region that requires that,” the ministry spokesman said during a virtual news briefing.

The Saudi capital Riyadh recorded the biggest spike in the last 24 hours, with 1,735 more infections, followed by Jeddah and the holy city of Mecca with more than 300 each.

The total number of cases in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is more than 326,760, with some 1,770 deaths, Reuters calculations show.