Families of health worker MERS victims in Saudi to receive $135,000

No discrimination between Saudis and non-Saudis will be made in disbursing the compensation amount, sources claimed

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The kin of health sector workers, who succumbed to the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV), will get $133,000 (SR500,000) in compensation from the Saudi government, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported on Saturday quoting informed sources.

No discrimination between Saudis and non-Saudis will be made in disbursing the compensation amount, the sources claimed, adding that the ministries of health, finance and civil service are in the process of implementing the recommendation made by the Council of Ministers.

A special committee has been formed with a representative from each ministry to set the procedure for the payment of compensation, which will be paid to both private and public sector employees whether they were health practitioners or para-medical staff, said the source.

Meanwhile, three new cases of MERS were reported on Friday. Two cases were reported in Riyadh and one each in Al-Kharj and Dammam.

The Ministry of Health said that since the beginning of February it has registered 11 cases.

The ministry confirmed that it is continuing cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other authorities related to implementation of different precautionary and preventive measures to deal with the virus through the Command and Control Center of the Ministry of Health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it remained worried about the spread of MERS overwhelmingly in Saudi Arabia.

In an update issued after a meeting of its emergency committee on MERS, the UN agency said more must be done to track the virus, which is known to have infected at least 965 people, of whom some 357 have died.

“Although the pattern of transmission appears relatively unchanged, the overall situation and the possibility of international spread remains of concern,” the WHO said.

“Increased surveillance in many countries is needed to better monitor trends related to the spread of this virus.”

There is no cure or vaccine for MERS, which kills around 40 percent of its victims. The virus causes coughing, fever and breathing problems, and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

The Council of Senior Scholars debated whether the victims should be considered martyrs. Head of the Council of Senior Scholars Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asheikh, who is the Kingdom’s grand mufti, said the coronavirus is a plague and victims of a plague are one of the five types of martyrs.

Council member Sheikh Abdullah Sulaiman Al-Munai disagreed with Al-Asheikh and said he does not consider the victims of a virus as martyrs in the path of Allah. Fellow council member Sheikh Abbas Al-Hikmy agreed and said the virus has not been classified as a plague yet and, therefore, he does not consider the victims to be martyrs.

Deputy Health Minister for Preventive Medicine Dr. Abdullah Asiri said the ministry considers all health sector employees who died of the virus as martyrs and they earned the monetary compensation given to their families.