Photo: Buildings in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia targets June 21 for re-opening post-lockdown except for Makkah, umrah, international flights

Saudi authorities are easing COVID-19 restrictions in stages, targeting June 21 for a re-opening of the economy but umrah and international flights are suspended until further notice while Makkah remains an exception.

The easing of restrictions will press ahead with a three-stage plan, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday (May 26) citing an official source at the Ministry of Interior.

In the first stage from May 28 to May 30, travel between regions will be allowed by private car during 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., except in Makkah. During this first stage, retail and wholesale shops and malls can remain open but those requiring closer contact are still not allowed to operate, including beauty salons, barber shops, sports clubs, entertainment centres and cinemas.

In the second stage from May 31 to June 20, mosques outside Makkah will reopen for congregational prayers including Friday prayers, with precautionary and preventive measures in place.

However, Masjid al Haram in Makkah will remain closed to the public and prayers are only to be attended by the imam and mosque employees.

During this second stage, domestic air travel can restart but airlines must follow precautionary measures set by the civil aviation authority and the ministry of health. All other travel between regions will be allowed subject to authorities' precautionary measures. 

Restaurants and cafes can reopen in the second stage but businesses involving closer contact, such as beauty salons and barber shops, still cannot reopen.

Social gatherings of more than 50 people, such as weddings, will continue to be banned through stages one and two.

In the third stage from June 21, the country is expected to return to conditions pre-COVID-19 lockdown.

Makkah remains an exception.

The city’s first phase will cover May 31 to June 20 during which the easing of restrictions under stage one for the rest of the country will apply.

The next phase for Makkah starts June 21 when it will loosen restrictions according to stage two for the rest of the kingdom.

“ With regard to the city of Makkah; the procedures are applied in the first item will be started from Sunday, 8 Shawwal 1441 AH corresponding to May 31, 2020 AD until the end of Saturday 28 Shawwal 1441 AH corresponding to June 20, 2020 AD. The second item will be started from Sunday 29 Shawwal 1441 AH corresponding to June 21, 2020 AD,” wrote SPA.

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