Saudi Arabia reported on Tuesday 147 new coronavirus cases, raising the Kingdom’s tally to 2,752, of which 551 have recovered, said the health ministry.
“We stand today at a decisive moment as a society in raising our sense of responsibility and contributing together with determination to stop the spread of this pandemic,” Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said in a televised address as he warned of a potential surge in cases.
Four studies by infectious disease experts indicated the number of cases was likely to reach between 10,000 and 200,000 in coming weeks, he said, urging the public to adhere more closely to state directives against mixing and movement. The virus has already infected more than 1.3 million people worldwide.
Rabiah said the 24-hour curfews, imposed on Monday night, were needed because some were not taking the danger of infection seriously but leaving their homes and gathering in groups; passenger road traffic had only fallen by barely 50%.
The interior ministry subsequently brought forward the start of curfew in all areas not already under a 24-hour lockdown to 3 pm from 7 pm.
Rabiah said keeping infections at current levels for four to 12 months would give the Kingdom more time to prepare and prevent the virus from overwhelming the health system, as it has in other countries.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz approved another 7 billion riyals ($1.86 billion) for the health ministry to combat the disease and another 32 billion could be disbursed before the end of the year, Rabiah added.
He said the economy and planning minister would speak later about new decisions to combat the epidemic’s impact on the Saudi economy.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia placed its capital Riyadh and other big cities under a 24-hour curfew to stem the spread of the virus.
The new curfew applies to the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Damam, Dharan, Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Khobar, a statement from the interior ministry said.
Entry to or exit from those areas will not be allowed, except for vital workers. Residents are allowed to leave their homes for medical or food needs inside their residential area and between 6 am and 3 pm only.