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Saudi Arabia quarantines Shia-majority region to contain coronavirus spread

All of the confirmed coronavirus cases are linked to travel to Iran [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 March, 2020

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All 11 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Saudi Arabia are located in the eastern Qatif region.
Saudi authorities have unveiled stringent new measures to curb the spread of the deadly new coronavirus by suspending entry and exit from the Shia-majority Qatif region, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

"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 ministry said 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 either recently travelled to Iran or directly interacted with people who had visited the Islamic Republic.

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 145 people have died from COVID-19 and nearly 6,000 others have been infected.

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

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