Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia locks down Qatif province, suspends school over virus

Saudi Arabia imposed a temporary lockdown on Sunday on the eastern oil-producing province of Qatif, home to all 11 people in the kingdom who have tested positive for the coronavirus, and suspended all schools and universities nationwide.

The interior ministry announced the lockdown in Qatif, which has a large Shi’ite Muslim population, after the four latest cases were confirmed in Saudi Arabia. It is not expected to have any impact on Saudi oil production, two industry sources said.

But the decision could stir resentment in Qatif, which has been a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated Saudi government and minority Shi’ites who have complained of discrimination and marginalisation, charges the government denies.

Saudi authorities have previously said those infected have either been to Iran or had contact with people who visited the Islamic Republic, home to Shi’ite holy sites.

The restrictions in Qatif could also increase tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Riyadh denounced Tehran on Thursday for granting Saudi citizens entry during the coronavirus outbreak.

Saudi Arabia has banned travel to Iran, which has reported 194 coronavirus deaths, and said legal action would be taken against any Saudi national travelling there.

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