June 19, 2020 / 12:44 PM / 14 days ago

Saudi Arabia coronavirus cases exceed 150,000 - health ministry

Saudi women wearing protective gloves shop at a supermarket, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/Files

DUBAI (Reuters) - The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia exceeded 150,000 on Friday following a rise in new infections over the past 10 days.

The Saudi Ministry of Health reported 4,301 new cases on Friday, taking the total to 150,292, with 1,184 deaths. The country hit more than 100,000 cases on June 7.

The number of new infections has continued to rise in recent weeks, as authorities began phasing out restrictions on movement and travel on May 28.

The restrictions were imposed in March to help curb the spread of the virus. Authorities announced last month that the nationwide curfew would be lifted completely on June 21, with the exception of the holy city of Mecca and Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia is considering drastically limiting numbers at the annual haj pilgrimage to prevent a further outbreak of coronavirus cases, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month.

Some 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long haj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. Saudi Arabia asked Muslims in March to put haj plans on hold and suspended the umrah pilgrimage until further notice.

Saudi Arabia’s numbers are the highest in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which have recorded 366,677 cases and 2,072 deaths.

Writing by Raya Jalabi and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Catherine Evans and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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