Numerous countries around the world and in the Middle East and North Africa rolled out their lockdown exit plans this month, but Algeria and Saudi Arabia have decided to keep coronavirus restrictions in place. Citizens of both countries will remain in lockdown until after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, marked by the religious holiday of Eid al-Fitr, usually cause for family gatherings and celebrations.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad said he is extending the country’s partial COVID-19 “sanitary lockdown” from May 15 for an additional 15 days. During a visit to the northwestern port city of Oran, he urged all Algerians to work together to fight the new coronavirus.
Movement restrictions, education and commerce closures, and a night curfew will remain in place until May 30. The wilaya of Algiers has instructed essential workers living in the province surrounding the capital to renew their movement permits due to the lockdown extension.
On May 11, the Minister for Health, Population, and Hospital Reform Abderrahmane Benbouzid told the Algeria Press Service (APS) that the exit from lockdown will not happen until the number of cases declines, and “we get close to zero deaths.” In a subsequent press conference on May 12, Benbouzid put the rising number of cases down to increased testing and reiterated his calls for all Algerians to wear face masks in public.
Algeria identified 176 new cases and eight more people died from COVID-19 on May 12. Health spokesman Professor Djamel Fourar said Algeria has 6,067 confirmed cases of coronavirus and the death toll now stands at 515. The highest number of cases are concentrated in the provinces of Blida (939 cases) and Algiers (677).
Yesterday afternoon, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced its current coronavirus restrictions will stay in place until May 22. During Eid al-Fitr, which falls between May 23 and May 27 this year, all cities and regions in the kingdom will be subject to a 24-hour “complete curfew.”
Under current restrictions, Saudi Arabia’s essential services will remain open and citizens are permitted to access them from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Mecca remains under a 24-hour curfew, and entry and exit from other areas under full isolation is banned.
A communique from the ministry reminded all citizens to adopt precautionary measures against COVID-19, including social distancing and avoiding gatherings of five or more people.
“The Ministry of Interior calls on all individuals and entities to fully comply with the approved instructions related to health safety requirements to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, and social distancing and avoid any gatherings,” the statement said.