As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to tighten its grip worldwide, the Islamic nation of Saudi Arabia is not left untouched by it either. The virus has now infected the top royal family of Saudi Arabia showing it does not discriminate whether one is a rich prince or a poor migrant. More than six weeks after the country reported its first case, the novel Wuhan virus is striking terror into the heart of the kingdom’s royal family.
The inner sanctums of the Mecca have been infected with the Coronavirus as King Salman, 84, has secluded himself for his safety in an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea, while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his son and the successor, has retreated with many of his ministers to the remote site on the same coast. Furthermore, at least 150 people from the royal family are believed to have contracted the deadly Wuhan virus. The royal family includes thousands of princes, many of whom travel routinely to Europe. Some are believed to have brought back the virus, according to the doctors.
The rulers of the country have taken emergency measures like canceling the Haj pilgrimage and prayers at the Mecca and Medina whilst cutting off all air and land travel into or out of its borders but despite all this, the country has seen a steady surge in the cases.
— إمارة منطقة المدينة المنورة (@imarat_almadina) March 28, 2020
Last week Saudi Arabia placed its capital Riyadh and other big cities under a 24-hour curfew, locking down much of the population to stem the spread of the virus. Elsewhere, the curfew which began on March 23 that runs from 3 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The total number of Wuhan virus cases reported in the country has reached 5,369 with 73 deaths where foreigners account for 70% to 80% of new cases. Mecca’s large number of undocumented immigrants and cramped housing for migrant workers has led to a sharp increase in the numbers.
Last month, the Saudi authorities had to lock down over 8,000 laborers in their houses after five employees of one of the biggest construction companies in the country, Saudi Binladin Group, tested positive for coronavirus.
Majorly, the expatriate population hails from Asian countries that include Nepal, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
Although the government has promised free Coronavirus treatment for foreign residents, that includes the undocumented immigrants–it would be an uphill battle for the Saudi authorities to contain the outbreak of the virus in the first place.
Millions of Muslim pilgrims visit Mecca each year and its significance in the entire Muslim world is enormous. King Salman’s official title is “custodian of the two holy mosques” and it needs to be seen if he is able to get his house in order or not. The West Asian country is the world’s largest oil exporter and if it gets hits by the pandemic, the whole planet could be staring at an abject future.
The total number of cases worldwide is pegged to cross two million mark any day and with no vaccine in sight, things are looking bleak at the moment. Social distancing is the best way to break the chain of transmission but how far this measure would go in culling the virus is a question that researchers across the world are trying to figure out.