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As many as 150 Saudi royal family members are believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus (Sars-CoV2), the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, according to a source close to the royals.
The Elite Medical and Surgical Center in Riyadh is said to be preparing 500 beds for an expected influx of ill royal family members. “The guidelines must be ready for very important people from all over the country. We do not know how many people we will receive, but it is an extreme alert,” read an internal message sent to the specialist hospital.
Patients with chronic conditions will be immediately removed from the hospital to make space for the royal family members. According to the report, the kingdom’s 84-year-old monarch, King Salman, is in isolation on an island palace near Jeddah. Salman’s son and de facto ruler of the kingdom, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is also isolated on a remote site near a planned cross-border city, Neom in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
According to two doctors at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, the governor of the capital Riyadh and King Salman’s brother, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz is currently in intensive care for COVID-19.
Saudi Arabia’s response
It is believed that the kingdom’s quick response to the coronavirus outbreak in the country was due to its widespread presence in the royal family. Saudi Arabia had restricted travel to the kingdom in place and also had stopped pilgrimages to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina a week before the country’s first confirmed coronavirus case on March 2.
According to the Health Ministry, a Saudi national who returned from virus-hit Iran became the first case of coronavirus in the country. Travel by air and land is now completely banned in Saudi Arabia and its residents are not permitted to travel to other provinces.
Hajj pilgrimage suspended
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and the annual pilgrimage called the hajj is the world’s largest gathering of Muslims.
The hajj – which was scheduled to take place this summer from July 28 to August 2 this year and usually brings in around 2.5 million worshippers – has now been suspended due to the pandemic.
The kingdom saw 7.5 million people entering for minor pilgrimages known as umrah in 2019, but these are also currently suspended due to coronavirus fears.