RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s health minister said on Sunday that complacency around coronavirus restrictions had led to a notable increase in daily cases in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia recorded 270 new infections on Saturday, 105 of them in the capital Riyadh.
The kingdom, the largest among the six Gulf Arab states, has recorded more than 367,800 cases and 6,370 deaths so far, the highest tally in the region. It saw daily infections fall from a peak above 4,000 in June to dip below the 100 mark in early January.
“We have unfortunately in recent days registered a noticeable increase and continued rise in infections. One of the main reasons is gatherings and complacency with precautionary measures,” said Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah.
“Lack of compliance will force us to take measures to protect society,” he said in televised remarks. “I ask you to help us preserve the gains we made in combating coronavirus … This is a very difficult stage.”
Neighbouring United Arab Emirates, where the total has reached 303,609 cases so far, has seen daily infections triple in the past month following an influx of visitors to the tourism hub in December.
On Sunday, it recorded 2,948 new infections, down from a peak of 3,966 last week, and reported 12 deaths for the second day in a row.
Countries in the oil producing region had largely lifted restrictions with the exception of mask-wearing in public and social distancing. In addition to Dubai emirate in the UAE, Oman and Bahrain have recently introduced new measures following an uptick in cases.
All Gulf states have launched immunisation campaigns. The UAE and Bahrain rank second and fourth globally on vaccine rollout per head of population.
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