Saudi Arabia records 4 new cases of COVID-19, including an American who went to Italy, Philippines

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Saudi Arabia confirmed four additional coronavirus cases, including a U.S. visit to Italy and the Philippines, which brought the count to 15 on Monday.

Advertisement On Sunday, the Kingdom placed a temporary lockout on its eastern oil-producing province of Qatif, home to most of its 15 coronavirus infections, and suspended national schools and universities.

It has also halted travel with nine countries, from the neighboring United Arab Emirates to Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt.

The Interior Ministry declared the lockdown in Qatif, which has a significant Shi’ite Muslim population, after Saudi Arabia reported the four most recent cases. It is not expected to have any effect on Saudi oil production, said two industry sources.

But the decision could cause outrage in Qatif, which was a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated Saudi government and the Shia minority who complained of discrimination and marginalization, the government denies.

The Ministry said the Qatif restrictions on movement will allow residents to return home and commercial supplies to continue.

Cement blocks were imposed on the main road to Qatif, said one resident of the province, while others reported rushing to grocery stores after the lockdown began.

The Saudi authorities have previously stated that those infected have either visited Iran or Iraq, or have been in contact with people who have visited the Shi’ite holy sites in those countries.

The Qatif restriction could also raise the friction between Saudi Arabia and Iran, rivals in the regional struggle for power. On Thursday, Riyadh denounced Tehran for granting Saudi citizens entry during the outbreak.

Among the cases on Monday, the American tourist was moved to a hospital in Riyadh, the capital. The others included a Saudi national who had contact with an infected person in Qatif and two Bahraini women from Iraq.

On Monday, the entertainment authority announced the closure of the Riyadh Boulevard and Winter Wonderland leisure attractions due to virus concerns.

Saudi Arabia, which on Monday suspended travel with nine countries, had already banned travel to Iran, which has a record of 194 virus deaths.

The Ministry of Health said that newly diagnosed people, three of whom are women, had contact with a person with the virus who was confirmed to have returned from Iran via the United Arab Emirates.

Sunday’s measures included the suspension of all educational and Koranic practices in mosques in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam.

Both public and private schools and universities would also be suspended from Monday until further notice, state media reported, adding that distance learning steps would be taken.

The start of the new Saudi Games on 23 March, which is the country’s largest sporting event, has been postponed, Al Arabiya TV said.

On Sunday, the Saudi government restricted border crossings with Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE to commercial trucks with passenger arrivals limited to three airports.

Qatar, with 15 incidents, is to temporarily ban travelers from 14 countries, including the Philippines, beginning on Monday.

Bahrain, with 85 illnesses, said its Formula One Grand Prix would go ahead without a spectator this month.

Kuwait registered two more infections on Sunday, totalling 64, and its central bank declared a fund of 10 million dinars ($33 million) to combat the virus.

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