Saudi curfew praised as coronavirus measures increased

RIYADH: Saudi ministers, government officials and embassies around the world launched a united campaign a day before the official announcement of a partial curfew to encourage citizens and residents to stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The curfew, announced by the Saudi government at 2 a.m. on Monday morning, came as no surprise to most. Some welcomed the news as it relieved social pressure to join family gatherings, a custom that persists despite the pandemic because of its deep roots in Saudi culture.

Many have already abided by the government’s campaign to inform citizens and residents alike of the importance of social distancing and the need to protect those who are vulnerable.

Sarah Al-Sibai told Arab News that the imposed partial curfew has not changed anything for her personally.

“I’ve been staying home and only leaving to get groceries, but I’m hoping this will discourage other people from going out,” Al-Sibai said. “I can’t believe some people are still having parties and gatherings with an actual pandemic happening outside. Hopefully, this will force people to take the issue more seriously.”

“I was expecting this announcement, and I’ve been preparing myself for a curfew since the beginning of the outbreak here,” said Riyadh resident Mishary Al-Resheed, 29. “I rarely leave home, except to go to restaurants or supermarkets. I bought some sports equipment and created a small gym in my apartment. I plan to spend at least two hours daily working out.”

“I was expecting a curfew after I saw some neighboring countries impose it. I plan on finally reading a book I’ve been meaning to for a long time. I also plan to study and prepare for a professional certificate. I just bought table tennis and I’m hoping to improve my skills in it,” said Sultan Al Qahtani, 27, also from Riyadh.

A week before the imposed partial curfew was instated, a trending hashtag in Arabic was used by Saudis, welcoming the decision.

“I wish the country had implemented the curfew sooner. The amount of people who leave their homes and don’t care is frightening. The government closed one of Islam’s holy sites and you want to go to your friend’s house!” said Twitter user @cardlonas.

Prince Abdurahman bin Musaad tweeted: “This decision does not mean that people are free to roam in the remaining 13 hours… The virus does not differentiate between the hours of prohibition and does not need permission to spread.”

The Ministry of Interior issued a statement today announcing that first-time violators would be fined 10,000 riyals ($2,666). Second-time violators of the curfew would be fined 20,000 riyals, and the penalty for a third violation is imprisonment for a maximum of 20 days.

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