Deep clean ordered as pilgrimage sites closed

Dubai: The United Arab Emirates directed most of the public and private sectors to have the majority of staff work from home, and imposed overnight curfews as a temporary measure for a nationwide disinfection to combat the coronavirus.

The regional business hub, which has confirmed 333 cases of the virus and two deaths, has not announced an official curfew or work suspension but has increasingly clamped down on movement.

Workers disinfect the ground around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The site is now closed.Credit:AP

Authorities announced restrictions on movement of traffic and people from 8pm to 6am every day until Sunday for the disinfection drive.

Only essential service workers would be allowed out and violators will face fines, a security forces spokesman said.

Public transport including trams and metro services are suspended, while private cars, cabs and delivery vehicles can operate outside those hours.

The UAE has slowly followed other Gulf states in suspending passenger flights and closing public venues such as restaurants and shopping centres. The Dubai emirate on Wednesday directed the private sector to implement remote working for most staff but exempted a broad spectrum of businesses.

On Thursday, the UAE government ordered all federal ministries and establishments and the private sector to limit the number of staff in offices to 30 per cent. It exempted sectors providing essential services including health, finance, energy, telecoms, security, military, cargo and food.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have taken the most drastic steps, including imposing curfews and suspending work at most public and private sector establishments.

Saudi Arabia announced a total lockdown on the capital, Riyadh, and Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a nationwide curfew.

Kuwait banned all taxis, directed the state supply company to cover any basic food shortages and said it would disburse a month's salary to all Kuwaiti students abroad.



The number of cases in Saudi Arabia passed 1000 after authorities on Thursday announced 112 new infections, most of them in Riyadh and Mecca. A third death from the virus was a resident in Medina who had suffered from chronic diseases.

Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar also saw more cases, taking the total in the six Gulf states to more than 2600, with nine deaths.

Saudi Arabia has released 250 foreign detainees held on non-violent immigration and residency offences as part of efforts to contain the spread of the disease, the state-backed Human Rights Commission said. Bahrain and Kuwait have also announced prisoner releases.

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