Middle East begins to ease coronavirus restrictions

Cairo, May 26 (efe-epa).- Several countries in the Middle East have begun to ease the restrictions imposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Excluding Iran, the region has reported over 217,000 coronavirus cases, mostly in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which registered 75,000 and 45,000 infections respectively, according to the World Health Organization.

Saudi Arabia decided to ease the existing 24-hour curfew, will will be reduced to between 3pm and 6am starting Thursday, the state-run SPA news agency reported on Tuesday.

The first phase of the reopening will also allow private vehicles to move between regions, according to the source.    

A second phase will get underway on 31 May, including the reduction of the curfew by five hours and the resumption of some economic activities, Friday prayers at the mosques, except for Mecca’s, and domestic flights.

The situation will get back to normal across the kingdom, except for Mecca, as of 21 June, but wearing a mask will be mandatory and gatherings of over 50 people will be banned, SPA reported.

While the minor pilgrimage, Umrah, to the holy city remained suspended, the fate of the annual Hajj is not clear.

The Syrian government has decided to lift the nighttime curfew starting today and extended the working hours of stores.

It also allowed intra-provincial movement “to balance health security on the one hand and restore economic life on the other,” the state-run SANA news agency reported last night.

Weddings and funerals, however, remain banned, while parks, gyms, swimming pools, cultural centers, theaters, cafes, restaurants and private institutes will stay closed till the government assesses the situation next week, SANA said.  

The return of Syrians from other countries has been suspended “until further notice,” the government said.

People who entered Syria clandestinely will be persecuted at the end of the quarantine, the government warned.

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