Saudi Arabia fires health minister over MERS

Saudi Arabia fires health minister over MERS
Tue Apr 22, 2014 08:07:43

Saudi Arabia has dismissed Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah from his post following a worrying surge of new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the country.

“A royal order announced here today that Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabeeah was relieved of his post as minister of health and was appointed as advisor at the Royal Court,” Saudi Arabia's official SPA news agency reported on Monday.

The report added that Labor Minister Adel bin Mohammad Faqih “was assigned to act as minister of health besides continuing as the minister of labor.”

Saudi authorities have come under fire for allegedly not having been transparent about how far the disease has spread and how effective are the preventative measures in hospitals.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry said on Sunday that seven new cases of the virus were discovered over the weekend in the country, adding up to 36 infections in five days.

According to the ministry, most of the new infections are in the port city of Jeddah, where 30 people have been infected since April 14, seven fatally. Another six cases, one of them fatal, were discovered in Riyadh.

The ministry also said that the virus has infected 231 people in the kingdom, of whom 76 have died.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also revealed on Saturday that two new cases were detected in the United Arab Emirates. The WHO said that the latest cases of the coronavirus came from the same Abu Dhabi hospital where a cluster of cases were reported a week ago.

MERS is a cousin of SARS. The virus first emerged in the Middle East, and was discovered in September 2012 in a Qatari man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia.

The virus, which causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, does not appear to be as contagious as SARS, which killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, MERS has been reported in the Persian Gulf countries, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.