Saudi Arabia has imposed a temporary lockdown on its eastern Qatif area, home to a large Shia-Muslim population, to prevent the spread of coronavirus after recording four more cases that raised the total to 11.
The move risks stirring resentment in Qatif, which has been a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated Saudi government and minority Shia in the country who complain of discrimination and marginalisation, accusations the government denies.
Saudi Arabia will suspend all educational and Quranic activities at mosques starting on Monday to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, state television reported.
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Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said on Sunday all the individuals diagnosed with the disease are from Qatif. Saudi authorities have previously said those infected have either been to Iran or interacted with people who visited the Islamic Republic, home to important Shia holy sites.
The restrictions in Qatif could also raise tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran after Riyadh on Thursday denounced Tehran for granting Saudi citizens entry amid the coronavirus outbreak. Saudi Arabia has banned travel to Iran and said legal action will be taken against any Saudi national travelling there.