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Coronavirus: Saudi police arrest people trying to flee from quarantined Shia province of Qatif

Entry and exit from the region of Qatif was suspended Sunday [Twitter/@alekhbariyaTV]

Date of publication: 13 March, 2020

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Several people attempting to leave the Shia-majority region of Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia were arrested.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested several people attempting to flee the Shia-majority region of Qatif - which was put under lockdown over the weekend over fears of coronavirus.

A video report on al-Ekhbariya TV shows a number of cars on rough terrain being stopped by road security patrols. 

The drivers were attempting to leave the Qatif governorate, Saudi media reported, in violation of the imposed lockdown.

The drivers allegedly told authorities they were trying to leave Qatif out of personal necessity, and that their aim was not to violate the lockdown.

The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia rose to 62 on Friday, 11 of whom are foreign nationals.

Saudi authorities suspended entry and exit from the Shia-majority Qatif region on Sunday, as part of stringent measures to curb the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

"Given that all 11 recorded positive cases of the new coronavirus are from Qatif... it has been decided... to temporarily suspend entry and exit from Qatif," the interior ministry said Sunday in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The ministry added it would "stop work in all government departments and private institutions" in the eastern region.

Necessary services such as pharmacies, petrol stations and health facilities will remain open, the statement said.

All schools and higher education institutions are also closed in the Shia-majority region, SPA said earlier on Sunday. 

Saudi authorities will begin a "remote education initiative", according to the official news site.

All 11 people who have contracted the COVID-19 illness in Qatif as of Sunday had either recently travelled to Iran or directly interacted with people who had visited the Islamic Republic.

Read more: How Gulf countries succeeded where Iran failed on containing coronavirus

Iran is home to some of the world's most important Shia Muslim holy sites and is a common destination for pilgrims year round. 

The Islamic Republic has become a regional epicentre for the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. At least 429 people have died from COVID-19 and nearly 10,000 others have been infected.

Agencies contributed to this report

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