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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia exceeds more than 200,000 total cases of Covid-19

Grim milestone comes just weeks before annual Hajj pilgrimage, which has been scaled back amid pandemic
A Saudi worker wearing a mask passes a boutique shop. Riyadh reported more than 200,000 novel coronavirus cases.
Saudi Arabia is worst-hit country in Gulf, with more than 200,000 cases of novel coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia exceeded a total of 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, weeks before an annual hajj pilgrimage that has been drastically scaled back amid the pandemic.

The kingdom's Health Ministry reported 4,193 new cases of the virus, as well as 50 deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 201,801, including 1,802 deaths.

Saudi Arabia is the Gulf's worst-hit country and second in the Middle East to Iran - which has recorded 235,429 confirmed cases.

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A recent report by the World Health Organisation found that 80 percent of all Covid-19 cases in the Eastern Mediterranean region were reported in the kingdom and four other countries.

The latest spike in cases comes just weeks after the country began relaxing lockdown measures, lifting a nationwide curfew and reopening mosques, shops and supermarkets.

In an attempt to contain the spread of the disease, the kingdom recently announced a limited hajj pilgrimage for this year, restricting entry into the country.

Usually, more than two million people perform the annual pilgrimage, including many travelling from abroad.

Last month, a Guardian analysis of coronavirus data, in conjunction with the University of Oxford, found that Saudi Arabia was among 10 countries facing serious increases in Covid-19 infections because of a lax approach in managing the outbreak.