Saudi Arabia: Concerns Over MERS As Haj Dates Near


The spike in cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus is worrying because of the upcoming annual pilgrimage, according to a top doctor.

Hanan Balkhi, head of the Health Ministry’s national scientific committee of infectious diseases, said that even if Haj pilgrims were tested, it was not possible to get a true picture of infections before there was an incubation period.

Balkhi said that there appeared to be fewer cases at the National Guard Hospital in Riyadh where there was a recent spike in cases, which resulted in several deaths, a local publication reported on Wednesday.

This comes as the ministry announced on Wednesday that there were three more people found infected with MERS, while five had recovered. This means that there have already been 23 cases of infection and 11 deaths since Sunday.

Last week, from Sunday Aug. 16 to 22, there were 49 infections, 11 deaths and four people who had recovered, according to data on the ministry’s website. This means that since June 2012, there have been 1,165 cases, with 498 deaths, 603 recoveries, 56 people receiving care at hospitals, and eight who are isolated at home.

The ministry has issued assurances that measures have been taken to ensure that pilgrims are not affected.

Abdullah M. Asiri, assistant deputy minister for preventive health, said the ministry is ready “with our facilities, equipment, health care workers and personal protective gear to meet any emergencies connected to the disease.”

Health officials would visit facilities to check for suspected cases of infections, he said.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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