JEDDAH – The death toll from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Kingdom reached 102 on Sunday with 10 new deaths during the past 24 hours as authorities scrambled to reassure an increasingly edgy population.
Public fears have been fueled by a rapid rise in the number of fatalities from the deadly coronavirus, with 39 people dying this month, almost a third of the 102 deaths registered since the virus emerged in April 2012.
The Health Ministry said 10 new deaths occurred during the past 24 hours while 16 new confirmed cases have been reported in Jeddah (8), Tabuk (6) and Riyadh (2).
The new fatalities included a nine-month-old Saudi child Riyadh, a 65-year-old Saudi woman, a 61-year-old Indonesian woman, and a 55-year-old Saudi man in Jeddah in addition to three new deaths (all Saudis) in Riyadh and one (an expat) in Jeddah.
Newly confirmed cases include three doctors (Saudi, Egyptian and Syrian) and six Filipino nurses.
A 63-year-old woman, who had also suffered chronic illness, died of MERS on Saturday in Jeddah, and a 78-year-old man died in Riyadh, the Health Ministry said.
It said the total number of cases diagnosed since the virus was first recorded in the Kingdom has reached 339, representing the bulk of infections registered globally.
The ministry has set up fourth specialized medical center in Najran following three in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.
Labor Minister and Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih has instructed the health departments in the Kingdom to allocate one hospital for the treatment of MERS cases. In Najran, they have identified King Khaled Hospital for the purpose.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Khaled Al-Faisal urged school authorities to take precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. He said no MERS cases have been reported among schools across the Kingdom.
The number of Saudis and expats visiting hospitals has declined, following reports of MERS deaths among doctors and nurses.
“I’ve decided to keep my six-year-old daughter at home and not send her to school,” said Umm Muntaha. “Prevention is better than cure,” she maintained.
A. Aziz, an Indian expat, has also stopped sending his son to school. “It’s safe this way. I don’t want to take any chances,” he said.
Schools remain open despite rumors of possible closures, but many have asked parents to equip their children with masks and disinfectants.
The ministry has not taken any “additional precautions” at airports apart from the “usual preventive measures,” a ministry official said. —ArabNews