DUBAI May 7 Saudi Arabia on Tuesday replaced
the head of King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, the Health Ministry
said on its website, as the kingdom struggles with a rise of new
cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The ministry said the move was part of its fight against the
spread of the SARS-like coronavirus and "a decisive step... to
guarantee the immediate improvement of the medical care service"
in the hospital, a major city health facility where a number of
coronavirus patients are being treated.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed a jump in the rate of infection
with the virus in recent weeks, with many of the new cases
recorded in Jeddah, the kingdom's second largest city.
The surge in Saudi cases is of particular concern as the
country is expected to see a large influx of pilgrims from
around the world in July during the Muslim fasting month of
Ramadan, followed in early October by the arrival of millions of
people to perform the annual pilgrimage in Mecca and Medina.
Saudi Arabia has reported 421 cases of MERS since the
disease was identified in 2012, of which 115 have been fatal,
according to the latest figures posted on the ministry website.
The spread of new infections slowed during the winter, but there
has been a sudden increase in cases last month.
On April 21, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah replaced the
country's health minister amid growing public disquiet at the
spread of the disease.
The authorities have at times struggled to counter swirling
rumours on social media that they have not been transparent
about how far the disease has spread and how effective are the
preventative measures taken in hospitals.
Countries in the region, including Qatar, Kuwait, the United
Arab Emirates, Oman and Tunisia, as well as several countries in
Europe have also reported MERS cases since the virus emerged. On
Monday, Egypt said it was investigating whether a 60-year-old
woman had died of MERS.
Last week, the United States said it had its first confirmed
case of the disease in a man who had been a healthcare worker in
(Writing by Rania El Gamal, editing by G Crosse)