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Eight new MERS deaths take Saudi toll to 102

Saudi Arabia, where MERS was discovered around two years ago, remains the country most affected

Published: Updated:

Eight Saudi nationals have died from MERS, taking the death toll from the coronavirus in the worst-hit country to 102, the health ministry said Sunday.

Among the death confirmed earlier on Sunday was a 63-year-old woman, who had suffered chronic illness, died of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Saturday in the western city of Jeddah, and a 78-year-old man died from the disease in Riyadh, it said.

Saudi Arabia, where MERS was discovered around two years ago and which remains the country most affected, has now had 323 confirmed cases.

The news follows Egypt's announcement on Saturday that it had confirmed its first case of MERS in a man who had recently returned to the country from Riyadh, where he was working.

Last week, at least four doctors at Jeddah's King Fahd Hospital who refused to treat patients for fear of infection.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it had offered to send international experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate "any evolving risk" associated with the transmission pattern of the virus.

MERS is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus which erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

Since the start of April, 127 cases have been announced, representing a 65 percent jump in total infections in Saudi Arabia this month.

The new cases included seven in Jeddah, the focal point for the recent outbreak, two in the capital Riyadh and another in Mecca, the Health Ministry said in a statement on its website.

The acting health minister, Adel Fakieh, said on Saturday he had designated three hospitals in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam on the Gulf coast as specialist centers for MERS treatment.

The three hospitals can accommodate 146 patients in intensive care, he said in comments carried by local press on Sunday.

Many Saudis have voiced concerns on social media about government handling of the outbreak, and last week King Abdullah relieved the health minister of his duties.

In Jeddah, some people are wearing facemasks and avoiding public gatherings, while pharmacies say sales of hand sanitizers and other hygiene products are soaring.

(With Reuters and AFP)