Saudi Arabia executes prince from House of Saud in unprecedented act
Members of Magic Movement, a group of young Bangladeshis, stage a mock execution scene in protest of Saudi Arabia beheading of eight Bangladeshi workers in front of National Museum in Dhaka October 15, 2011. Eight Bangladeshi migrants have been beheaded in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh in public on October 7, as they were sentenced to death for the alleged murder of an Egyptian man in April 2007, an interior ministry of Saudua Arabia statement said. REUTERS

At a time when the world is battling the deadly coronavirus pandemic which is found to spread through droplets of mucus and saliva among others, a man in Saudi Arabia who was caught spitting at shopping trolleys at a mall could face the death penalty, possibly even a beheading if convicted.

The unidentified man was apprehended immediately after he was reportedly seen spitting at the shopping trolleys in the north-western region of Hail in Saudi Arabia. A source close to the prosecution said the man was being remotely interrogated by Saudi authorities to determine his motive.

Deliberate act?

The motive is not clear yet, but it is being regarded as "deliberately seeking to spread the coronavirus epidemic among members of society" and causing panic among them.

According to the World Health Organization, the virus is mainly transmitted via respiratory droplets such as mucus and saliva of infected persons.

"His act is considered among major crimes… This behaviour is religiously and legally condemned. It is regarded as imparting corruption by deliberately seeking to spread the coronavirus epidemic among members of society and stirring panic among them," the Gulf News quoted a prosecution source as saying.

Death for spitting?

Punishment for the act can attract the death penalty, which could include beheading, the source added.

In a similar case, a video surfaced online showing a man who had tested positive for COVID-19 spitting on another man, and later found dead inside a train in Thailand.

Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest laws in the world, and spitting in public is considered a punishable crime, but the crime becomes even more severe, especially now as the kingdom is fighting to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

How the kingdom is fighting Covid-19

The kingdom is taking every possible measure to curb the spread of the deadly contagion and has halted all international flights, restricted internal movement and in a historic decision suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia has also urged Muslims throughout the world to defer their preparations for the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year until further clarity appears on the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, March 30, Saudi Arabia began enforcing a nationwide curfew and restricted movement among the country's 13 provinces, with entry and exit to capital Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah limited. It also imposed a 24-hour curfew in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina until further notice.

The kingdom has reported 2,179 cases of infections and more than 29 deaths as of April 4.