Saudi Arabia to Deport Coronavirus Restriction Violators ‘Forever’

SAUDI ARABIA, MECCA : TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ABDEL HADI HABTOOR Muslim pilgrims wear nose and mouth masks on the way to Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on May 27, 2014. Muslims pilgrims from …

Residents of Saudi Arabia who violate the country’s coronavirus ban on large gatherings will be permanently banished from the Kingdom, the nation’s interior ministry announced Tuesday, Saudi news site al-Arabiya reported.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Interior’s (MOI) security spokesman, Talal al-Shalhoub, urged the public to adhere to Saudi Arabia’s physical distancing mandates, been implemented to curb transmission of the Chinese coronavirus.

“If a violator is a resident of Saudi Arabia, he will be deported from the Kingdom, and will be forever forbidden from re-entering it after his punishment is carried out,” al-Shalhoub said Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, with a population of 30 million people, currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases out of all six Persian Gulf states with 62,545 infections, in addition to 339 deaths. The Kingdom has banned large gatherings, defined as a grouping of “more than five people,” in an effort to contain its outbreak, al-Arabiya reported. To comply with this mandate “shoppers and staff members” are “not allowed to gather in malls or shops beyond the specified capacity limit which ensures two meters of separation between people,” al-Shalhoub said.

Shops will be fined for each person found gathering in and outside of their establishments above the set capacity. For example, for a first-time offender, “an establishment will be fined 5,000 riyals ($1,331) for every extra person present in the facility above the set capacity limit.”

The fine per person above capacity doubles for second and third-time offenders: “The maximum fine is 100,000 riyals ($26,619).” Third-time offenders “will be referred to the public prosecution,” according to the report. Private sector establishments defying the set capacity limits can be shut down by the government for three to six months.

“Anyone who attends a gathering, or calls for it, or causes it will be considered a violator of the government’s measures and will face fines and penalties,” al-Shalhoub reminded the public on Saturday.

On April 25, King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions already in place to coincide with the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The order allowed retail stores and shopping malls to re-open as long as they maintained coronavirus prevention measures such as physical distancing and a limit on visitors.

On May 14, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce said shopping centers could remain open until May 22.

Kuwait and Qatar, who both share a border with Saudi Arabia, announced over the weekend they would imprison people for up to three years for failing to wear a sanitary face mask in public in accordance with their coronavirus prevention measures.


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