Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The government plans to pay SR500,000 in compensation to the family of every person, regardless of nationality, who died from the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in the Kingdom, the Ministry of Health announced on Thursday. Speaking at a press briefing held at the ministry’s headquarters, Abdullah M. Al-Asiri, assistant deputy minister for preventive health, said a royal decree has already been issued to pay the compensation. “We have a full list of those who died of MERS and are now working out the details with the Ministry of Finance,” Al-Asiri said, adding that a special committee comprising key officials has been formed to disburse the funds. With two more fatalities reported on Thursday — a Saudi man, 68, and expatriate man, 64, both from Riyadh — the death toll is now 512 in the Kingdom since June 2012.
Most of the victims have been Saudis. Besides the deaths on Thursday, four more cases of infection were reported, including two female expatriate health workers in Riyadh and a Saudi man and woman from Najran and Al-Kharj respectively. Al-Asiri said MERS patients have symptoms similar to those of pneumonia patients. “Only two percent of cases involve human-to-human transmission,” he said. He said the World Health Organization, which has conducted 10 crucial meetings about the virus in the Kingdom, still maintains that the disease is geographically limited and no additional preventive measures are required. Regarding the Haj, he advised elderly people, children and those with chronic diseases to abstain from performing the pilgrimage.
According to studies conducted by researchers from the US and the UK, the virus has been widespread in camels in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, Al-Asiri said. It had remained dormant within camels until four years ago and was transmitted to humans because of the frequent interaction with these animals. “It was discovered that 74 percent of camels carry the antibodies for the corona virus, which means they were infected at some stage of their life.” Al-Asiri said: “The researchers stressed that finding the corona virus in camels on a large scale provides opportunities to control its spread. In addition, they found that the virus is present in the respiratory tract not in the stool, which is important in determining the pathways between humans and animals.”
© Arab News 2015Sep 2015