No mosque prayers: Gulf States extend coronavirus precautions

World Sergey Matyunin 16-Mar-2020
coronavirus in Kuwait
ID 171099277 © Corradobarattaphotos |

Gulf Arab states dramatically expanded measures to contain the spread of coronavirus: Saudi Arabia closed cinemas, cafes, gyms and restaurants, Oman banned open ship-to-ship transfers with Iranian vessels while in Kuwait people are required to have their temperatures tested before entering banks.

Measures have also affected the way many Muslims in the Gulf worship.

Saudi Arabia suspended the Umrah year-round pilgrimage andt advised residents against praying in mosques if they have any symptoms of the virus.

Kuwait banned all mass prayers. “Pray at home, pray at home,” an imam preached in a recording that went viral on social media on Saturday.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia halted international passenger flights. The United Arab Emirates has suspended new entry visas from March 17 while Qatar has restricted visa issuance.

Kuwait, where the ban on international flights began on March 13, has offered its citizens stranded at London’s Heathrow Airport paid accommodation at an airport hotel with three meals a day, according to an embassy notification seen by Reuters.

Saudi Arabia, which has locked down its eastern Qatif region where many infections were recorded, has 103 cases of the virus.

Many of the coronavirus cases recorded in Gulf Arab states have been linked to travel to Iran, which has emerged as an epicentre for the disease in the Middle East.

Oman, across the Gulf from Iran, asked open-deck boats to immediately halt ship-to-ship trade with Iranian boats, state news agency ONA said on Sunday.

In the UAE, regional tourism and business hub Dubai joined other emirates in shuttering cinemas, arcades and gyms. Dubai’s large Global Village shopping and entertainment market, which runs from November to March each year, said it was closing early. The UAE capital Abu Dhabi shut down public beaches and parks.