Saudi Arabia forms police unit to enforce coronavirus curbs

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has formed a police unit to monitor violations of its coronavirus lockdown rules and has banned gatherings of more than five people, the state news agency SPA said on Thursday (May 7).

The kingdom had already said gatherings of more than one family were prohibited. On Thursday, it announced more specific details, said those breaching the rules would be punished by law and encouraged people to report any violation, SPA reported.

Fines of up to 100,000 riyals (US$27,000) will be handed down to groups larger than one family gathering in public and private spaces, including homes, construction sites and shops. The same rule applies for parties, weddings and funerals.

Riyadh in full lockdown to counter the coronavirus

General view of deserted streets, during the lockdown to counter the outbreak in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo

“The regulation aims to impose social separation and organise and reduce human gatherings,” SPA reported.

The number of new recorded infections in Saudi Arabia is hovering at around 1,600 per day. The kingdom has recorded 33,731 cases and 219 deaths since the start of the outbreak.

On Wednesday, the kingdom introduced stringent new penalties for residents and citizens found to violate other preventative measures.

Those found to have violated quarantine rules could be fined up to 200,000 riyals and face up to two years in prison, while those found to have intentionally spread the virus could face a fine of up to 500,000 riyals and up to five years in prison.

Non-Saudi offenders would also be deported and permanently barred from re-entering.

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