GCC News Roundup: Further restrictions imposed in Gulf States as COVID-19 cases increase (March 1-31)

RIAD, SAUDI ARABIA- Health personnel carry out disinfection tasks in the streets and public places, as a preventive measure against the coronavirus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 2, 2020. The government of Saudi Arabia ordered this Thursday (2) the Confinement of the population in the cities of Mecca and Medina to try to contain the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has already left 1,885 confirmed cases and 21 deaths in the country.

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Gulf states impose further restrictions as coronavirus cases increase

Saudi authorities imposed entry and exit bans on Jeddah on March 29, after doing so for the cities of Riyadh, Mecca, and Medina on March 26. On March 29, the kingdom also extended indefinitely the suspension of international passenger flights and a bar on workplace attendance in both public and private sectors.

Kuwait imposed on March 22 a curfew nationwide and halted on March 13 all commercial flights until further notice.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) directed on March 26 most of the public and private sectors to have the majority of staff work from home. It also imposed overnight curfews, which it has since extended to April 5.

Oman suspended all internal and international flights as of March 29, according to state TV.

Qatar banned all inbound flights to Doha, with the exception of cargo and transit flights, starting from March 18.

UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar announce stimulus plans

The central banks of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the two largest Arab economies, on March 14 announced stimulus plans worth a combined $40 billion to ease the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in their respective countries.

Qatar said on March 15 it would provide 75 billion riyals ($20.5 billion) in financial incentives to the private sector and instruct state funds to increase their investment in the local bourse by 10 billion riyals.

Senior members of Saudi royal family arrested

Four senior princes were detained from March 6 to 7 under orders from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to two Saudis close to the royal family.

The wave of arrests included Prince Ahmed bin Abdelaziz and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The full extent of the roundup was not clear.

Saudi Arabia detains hundreds on corruption charges

 Saudi Arabia on March 15 announced the detention of hundreds of government officials, including military and security officers, on charges involving bribery and exploiting public office, and said investigators would bring charges against them.

An anti-corruption body known as Nazaha tweeted that it had arrested and would indict 298 people on crimes such as bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power involving a total of 379 million riyals ($101 million).

Turkish prosecutors file indictment over Khashoggi murder 

 Istanbul prosecutors said on March 25 they had prepared an indictment against a close aide to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a former deputy head of general intelligence over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The prosecutor’s office accused the two men of instigating Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and named 18 suspects it said actually carried out the killing.

Saudi Arabia shoots down missile over Riyadh

Saudi Arabia said its air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles on the night of March 28 in an attack that Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said they had launched towards Riyadh and southern areas near the Yemeni border.

The attacks came days after Yemen’s warring parties welcomed a U.N. call for an immediate truce to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Saudi Arabia convenes virtual G20 Summit over pandemic

Saudi Arabia, the current G20 chair, called a video summit on March 26 to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. King Salman, in opening remarks, said G20 countries should resume the normal flow of goods and services, including vital medical supplies, as soon as possible to help restore confidence in the global economy.

The G20 leaders pledged during the summit to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the coronavirus and “do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic.”