Saudi Arabia moves to quarantine Qatif governorate over coronavirus
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had only one or two cases of the virus until March 8, when the numbers jumped to 11.
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Saudi Arabia moved on Sunday to quarantine an entire governorate in the eastern part of the country in an effort to prevent people leaving Qatif, where up to 11 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed. According to local and regional reports, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior is taking extraordinary measures to shut down many premises in the area and restrict movement from Qatif.Qatif is a city and governorate that is also home to many members of the Shi’ite minority. It is suspected that Shi’ites who had traveled to Iran and returned to neighboring Bahrain and Kuwait brought the virus back with them. This has been the case in dozens of coronavirus cases in Bahrain and Kuwait. Saudi Arabia had only one or two cases of the virus until March 8, when the numbers jumped to 11. Now the Saudi government appears to be dealing with its coronavirus outbreak, as China did in Wuhan or Italy currently is in its hard-hit northern regions, through quarantine.“Movement from and into the province will be temporarily suspended, but residents who are currently outside the area will be allowed back in,” one report stated. Riyadh has taken extra precautions against the spread of the virus, suspending pilgrimages and seeking to ensure that the virus is not transmitted among the many travelers to the kingdom.The discovery that most cases are linked to Qatif has alarmed the authorities. Qatif, a region with more than half a million residents, is about 100 km. from Bahrain and 400 km. from Kuwait. There are thought to be 85 cases of the virus in Bahrain and 62 in Kuwait. In Iran, there are 6,566 cases and up to 200 dead. Fears of travelers from Iran and other countries have led to travel restrictions and closures across the Gulf.
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