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The New Arab

Up to 150 Saudi royals 'have coronavirus', as elite hospital gears up for VIP influx

Prince Mohammed bin Salman has secluded himself to a remote location along Jeddah's coastline [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 April, 2020

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Prince Faisal bin Bandar Abdulaziz Al-Saud, governor of Riyadh and nephew of King Salman, is currently in ICU care after being infected.

Around 150 members of the House of Saud are believed to have been infected with Covid-19, including a senior Saudi prince, with numbers expected rise significantly, according to a report in The New York Times

An internal memo sent out at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, an elite hospital which treats members of royal family, was obtained by NYT.

In anticipation of a influx of royals, preparations are being made to set up 500 beds, according to the memo.

The chilling document suggests that the projected numbers of cases will be so substantial that all chonically-ill patients "will be moved out ASAP" and that only "top cases" will be accepted.

Even sick staff members will now be treated at a less elite hospital to make room for the royals, the memo adds.

It is believed that around 150 members of the House of Al-Saud have contracted the virus, according to a source close to the royal court.

Prince Faisal bin Bandar Abdulaziz Al-Saud, governor of Riyadh and nephew of King Salman, is currently in ICU care after being infected, according to two doctors with links to the specialist hospital.

The king himself is isolating himself on an island off the coast of Jeddah. His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has secluded himself along with members of his ministry to a remote location along the same stretch of coastline.

The thousands of princes which make up the royal family routinely travel to Europe, which is now the global epicentre of the virus.

Some of these are believed to have bought back the virus, according to doctors and those close to the family, the NYT report adds.

Some of the earliest unprecedented measures taken by the Saudi authorities - including a lockdown of the Muslim world's holiest sites which draw in millions of pilgrims from around the world - may have been driven by fears of an outbreak among the elite, the report suggests,.

International and domestic travel is now under a blanket ban and authorities have indicated that a cancellation of the hajj pilgrimage is high likely.

Mecca and Madina are surrounded by vast slums home to the descendants of settled African or Southeast Asian Muslim pilgrims. Now an underclass with no clear status and limited access to health care, doctors believe their communities were hotspots for the kingdom’s outbreaks.

While a Saudi returnee from regional epicentre Iran prompted a lockdown in Eastern Province, home to most of the kingdom's Shia population, doctors now believe that outbreaks are overwhelmingly taking place among non-Saudi migrant workers.

Making up a third of the Saudi Arabia 33 million strong population, workers from South Asia or poorer Arab countries find themselves in crammed accommodation outside major cities, ideal condition for transmission.

Those without visas risk deportation, discouraging many illegal workers them from coming forward to seek coronavirus help.

The scale of overspill from the outbreak prompted King Salman to decree that treatment would be provided to any foreigner with coronavirus, regardless of visa residency status.

The country’s health minister, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, predicts the kingdom’s confirmed cases could rise astronomically over the next few weeks, from 2,795 to a maximum of 200,000.

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