RIYADH: As many as 150 members of the ruling Saudi royal family have been infected with coronavirus in recent weeks, a news report said.
The renowned New York Times cited hospital communications, doctors and sources familiar with the family. Saudi Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is the governor of Riyadh and in his 70s, is in intensive care after contracting the virus.
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have retreated into isolation to avoid the outbreak. The 84-year-old king has secluded himself on an island palace near Jeddah, while the crown prince has moved to a remote site on the Red Sea coast.
Doctors at an elite hospital that treats royals are preparing 500 more beds for an expected influx of patients. The report said the so far mostly members of lower branches of the royal family have been infected.
“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 to senior doctors.
“We don’t know how many cases we will get but high alert,” said the message instructing “all chronic patients to be moved out ASAP” and only top urgent cases will be accepted.
The alert added any infected staff members will now be treated at a less elite hospital to save room for royals. There are thousands of Saudi princes traveling regularly to Europe. Some are believed to have contracted the virus abroad and brought it back to Saudi Arabia, the report said.
The kingdom has reported 2,932 cases and 41 deaths. Travel in and out of the country, as well as between provinces, has since been largely restricted, and four governates and five major cities have been placed under 24-hour lockdown.
The vast majority of cases in the country have been in migrant labour camps and slums around Makkah and Madinah. A Saudi health minister on Tuesday warned the outbreak in the country may only be beginning.