Coronavirus cases rising in Saudi Arabia, UAE after curfews lifted

Government guidelines on reopening of houses of worship is seen at a Sikh temple entrance in Dubai on Wednesday. (AP pic)

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus infections have passed 200,000 and neighbouring United Arab Emirates 50,000, with the number of new cases climbing after the Arab world’s two largest economies fully lifted curfews last month.

Restrictions had been in place in both countries since mid-March and their gradual lifting has allowed commercial businesses and public venues to reopen.

Other Gulf countries have also moved to ease restrictions, although Kuwait has maintained a partial curfew and Qatar, Bahrain and Oman did not impose one at all.

Saudi Arabia, which has the highest count among the six Gulf states, reported more than 4,100 cases on Friday and on Saturday to take its total to 205,929, with 1,858 deaths. The daily tally first rose above 4,000 in mid-June, but had dipped.

The United Arab Emirates, where daily infection rates recently dropped to between 300 and 400 from a peak of some 900 in late May, registered more than 600 cases on Friday and over 700 on Saturday, taking its toll to 50,857, with 321 deaths.

Dubai, the region’s business and tourism hub is due to reopen to foreign visitors on July 7, although this has not been implemented at a federal level in the UAE, which does not provide a breakdown of cases for each of its seven emirates.

Qatar, which has the second highest regional infection rate, has seen its daily case numbers fall from a peak of more than 2,000 in late May to around 500 on Saturday, bringing it near to 100,000 cases in total.

In Oman, the health minister warned on Thursday that there had been a disturbing surge in infections in the last six weeks and urged people to comply with health measures.

Iran, the epicentre for the disease in the Middle East with a total infection count of 237,878 and 11,408 deaths as of Saturday, has imposed new curbs to halt the spread of the virus.