CAIRO - Saudi Arabia on Wednesday suspended work in most of the private sector for 15 days and directed businesses to implement work-from-home policies to stop the spread of the coronavirus that has infected 171 people in the kingdom.
The human resource ministry directed businesses in the largest Arab economy to close their main offices, reduce staff levels at secondary locations, and take measures to limit contact between workers and monitor them for symptoms of infection.
It outlined exceptions for companies providing vital food and health services as well as utility services for government agencies. Pregnant women, workers over 55 and those with severe pre-existing conditions must be given 14 days additional leave.
The move is the latest in a series of drastic measures by Saudi authorities to combat the outbreak, including closing mosques, schools, restaurants, coffee shops and malls as well as halting international flights and cancelling the Umrah pilgrimage.
Earlier this week, public sector workers were told to take off, the central bank implemented work-from-home measures for banks, and the Council of Ministers cancelled its regular meetings for the next two weeks.
More than 1,000 infections and one death have been reported in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council - many linked to travel to neighboring Iran, which is an epicenter for the outbreak in the Middle East.