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Up to 150 Saudi Royals Infected with Coronavirus, King and Crown Prince Seclude themselves: NY Times

2020-04-09 - 8:33 p

Bahrain Mirror: Dozens of members of the ruling Saudi royal family have been infected with coronavirus in recent weeks, the New York Times newspaper reported.

The newspaper said that King Salman and the Crown Prince are secluding themselves in separate places on the Red Sea, fearing from getting infected.

It added that the Saudi Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the governor of the capital Riyadh, is in intensive care, six weeks after Saudi Arabia reported its first case.

As many as 150 royals in the kingdom are now believed to have contracted the virus, including members of its lesser branches. Doctors at an elite hospital that treats royals are preparing 500 more beds for an expected influx of patients.

"Directives are to be ready for VIPs from around the country," the operators of the elite facility, the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, wrote in a "high alert" sent out electronically on Tuesday to senior doctors and later obtained by the Times.

"We don't know how many cases we will get but high alert," said the message, which instructed "all chronic patients to be moved out ASAP" and only "top urgent cases" will be accepted, according to the newspaper.

"King Salman, 84, has secluded himself for his safety in an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea, while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his son and the 34-year-old de facto ruler, has retreated with many of his ministers to the remote site on the same coast where he has promised to build a futuristic city known as Neom," the report added

King Salman delivered a speech on combating the epidemic in the country last month, the report said, via a video call from his secluded residence.

"Like the hospitalization this week of the British prime minister or the deaths last month of several top Iranian officials, the affliction of the al-Saud royal clan is the latest evidence of the pandemic's egalitarianism. The virus afflicts the richest princes and the poorest migrant workers with no discrimination - at least, until the moment they begin to seek testing or treatment."

The sickness in the royal family, though, may also shed new light on the motivation behind the speed and scale of the kingdom's response to the pandemic.

Its rulers began restricting travel to Saudi Arabia and shut down pilgrimages to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina even before the kingdom had reported its first case, on March 2.

The authorities have now cut off all air and land travel into or out of its borders and between internal provinces. They have placed all of its biggest cities under a strict 24-hour lockdown.

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