Saudi reports first coronavirus death as infections spike

AFP Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Mar 24, 2020, 09.44 PM(IST)

A bottle of Purell hand sanitizer Photograph:( Reuters )

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Saudi Arabia has reported the highest number of infections in the Gulf

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reported its first death from the new coronavirus as the total number of infections spiked to 767, according to the health ministry.

An Afghan resident in the western city of Medina died from the virus, the ministry said, while reporting 205 new infections -– the biggest jump in the kingdom in a single day.

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Saudi Arabia, which has reported the highest number of infections in the Gulf, began implementing a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday to limit the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

The Arab world's biggest economy has also closed down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights and suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage as it steps up efforts to contain the virus.

King Salman warned on Thursday of a "more difficult" fight ahead against the virus, as the kingdom faces the double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.

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Last week, the kingdom unveiled stimulus measures amounting to 120 billion riyals ($32 billion) to support businesses and said it plans to raise borrowing to 50 percent of GDP.

Similar restrictions and stimulus measures have been reported by other countries in the Gulf, where more than 2,100 coronavirus infections have been reported so far.

Bahrain recorded its third death from the virus on Tuesday, while Oman said it would from March 29 suspend all passenger flights -- except to and from Musandam bordering the United Arab Emirates.

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Meanwhile, Kuwait's cabinet on Tuesday said anyone caught intentionally spreading the virus could face up to 10 years in jail, according to state media.

Kuwait -- which has recorded 191 cases so far -- has taken the strictest measures in the Gulf by largely locking down the country to combat the spread of COVID-19.