Saudi police arrest suspected coronavirus patient found 'spitting in shopping mall' amid kingdom-wide curfew

Saudi police arrest suspected coronavirus patient found 'spitting in shopping mall' amid kingdom-wide curfew
A man arrested for spitting inside a Saudi shopping centre was later reported to display symptoms of COVID-19.
2 min read
26 March, 2020
Two spitting incidents have been reported in Saudi malls recently [Getty]
Saudi security forces arrested a man after he was caught spitting inside a shopping centre in eastern Mecca, local media has reported.

The man, identified as a Yemeni national working in a bakery inside the mall, was referred to security after being caught spitting.

During questioning, he was taken for a medical examination which showed he was suffering from a high temperature - a symptom of the novel coronavirus - and put into quarantine and given a COVID-19 test. The test results have not yet been confirmed, according to local reports.

This is peculiarly the second such incident in several days, after a foreign national was arrested also for spitting on shopping trolleys in Baljurashi, southeastern Saudi Arabia. Local reports say the person also had COVID-19.

Local police opened an investigation into the incident and were preparing to refer the case to the prosecution.

Mecca authorities could not be reached for comment.

The incident sparked a wave of xenphobic hate from Saudis online, who criticised foreigners for not respecting the country.

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Foreigners make up about a third of Saudi Arabia’s population of 33 million, and more than 80 per cent of the private sector workforce.

In the US, a man who filmed himself licking shelves in a Walmart supermarket asking "who's afraid of coronavirus?" was arrested and charged with terrorism. 

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly tightening its lockdown over the pandemic, sealing off the capital as well as Mecca and Medina on Wednesday.

With more than 1,000 confirmed cases, Saudi Arabia has so far reported the highest number of infections in the Gulf, and implemented a curfew in the three cities between 3pm and 6am beginning Thursday.

Authorities plan to implement the curfew for 21 days and have warned that transgressors will be fined 10,000 Saudi riyals ($2,663) and could face jail for repeated breaches.

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