Shops in Saudi Arabiainfo-icon may now stay open during prayer times, a leading government-linked newspaper said on Friday, relaxing the kingdom's strict rules on closing shops and businesses for prayer five times a day.

It is the latest in a series of social and economic reforms intended to modernise the kingdom and boost the private sector's contribution to its oilinfo-icon-dependent economyinfo-icon.

The decision, taken by the Council of Saudi Chambers, will end decades where all shops had to shut for at least half an hour during five daily prayers.

"To prevent crowding, gatherings, long waiting under preventive measures to fight coronavirus and to maintain the healthinfo-icon of shoppers, we urge shop owners and businesses to remain open through all working hours, including prayer times," Okaz cited a circular by the official businessinfo-icon federation.

The Saudi government's mediainfo-icon office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, has pledged to revive a more "moderate Islam".

He has loosened ultra-rigorous social restrictions by scaling back the role of religious morality police, permitting public concerts, lifting a ban on cinemainfo-icon and allowing women to drive.