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Iran Press TV

Most of Mecca's population may be infected: Saudi medical sources

Iran Press TV

Friday, 01 May 2020 8:49 AM

Saudi medical sources say more than half of Mecca's residents have been infected by COVID 19 as indicated by random testing conducted in the holy city.

The Middle East Eye news outlet cited three senior Saudi medical sources as saying that almost 70 percent of Mecca's two million residents have contracted the novel coronavirus based on a recent random testing.

This indicates that the actual spread of COVID 19 might be considerably higher than official estimates, it said.

According to worldometer statistics, 22,753 confirmed cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia thus far. The death toll stands at 162, and 3,163 have recovered from the pulmonary disease.

"Saudi health authorities expect the peak to be sometime in June," one medical source said on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia's health minister warned in early April of a huge spike in coronavirus cases of up to 200,000 within weeks.

In February, King Salman warned of a "more difficult" fight ahead against the virus as the kingdom which has reported the highest number of infections in the Persian Gulf faces the economic double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.

A 24-hour curfew was imposed on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for 24 days in April that eventually was relaxed following the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Mecca, believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak, is still under restrictions.

Saudi Arabia has been under a lockdown since March that entailed travel restriction between 13 provinces in addition to entry and exit bans to the three prominent cities of Mecca, Medina and the capital city of Riyadh.

This year's annual pilgrimage known as Hajj, scheduled for the end of July, is also highly likely to be cancelled or curtailed in the Kingdom. The Hajj religious ritual is practiced by millions of Muslims each year as they make the journey to Mecca.

Last year, some 2.5 million faithful traveled to Saudi Arabia from across the world to take part in the Hajj, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if able.

'Saudi royal family ridden by virus'

According to an April report by the New York Times, 150 royals had caught the virus.

The paper cited doctors at Saudi Arabia's King Faisal Hospital, where members of the royal family are treated, as saying that they were preparing as many as 500 beds for an expected surge in numbers of coronovirus patients from the ruling Al Saud family.

The kingdom faces another battle amid international criticism of its war on impoverished Yemen, the gruesome murder of US-based renowned journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and a heavy-handed crackdown on women's rights activists.

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