Health authorities in Saudi Arabia started a re-examination of the health data related to the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) and announced 113 additional cases while firing the Deputy Health Minister. Meanwhile, officials in the UAE said the country has developed a national MERS coronavirus plan for monitoring the infection, although no MERS patients are currently registered in local hospitals according to them.
On Tuesday, Abdul Rahman Al Owais, UAE Minister of Health, announced that the authority has developed a nation-wide plan for monitoring the MERS infection, which has already killed more than 200 people worldwide. As part of the plan, medical staff across the country has been especially trained for identifying and dealing with MERS. A special committee and operations centre have also been set up to inspect hospitals and ensure good implementation of all infection prevention and control procedures and measures. This a result of the recommendations by the World Health Organization, which urged countries to improve their strategies for restraining pandemic diseases, for prevention and awareness, as well as their efforts for international collaboration and sharing of information.
Since the first appearance of the new coronavirus in September, 2012, 67 cases, including 9 deaths have been confirmed in the UAE. Being among the countries with large number of cases (second only to Saudi Arabia), the UAE has taken the situation seriously, which is evident from the fact that all MERS patients are already cleared out of the infection and currently, there are no diagnosed cases in the country’s hospitals.
However, the situation in Saudi Arabia isn’t as conclusive. This is the main epicenter of the epidemic and according to the latest data cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, 113 additional MERS cases were found after closer reviewing of all medical data. The most recent information on the Health Ministry’s website listed 575 infections and 190 deaths. But on Tuesday, the state media said the actual number of confirmed cases is 688, including 282 deaths. According to the statement, 53 people are still receiving treatment in Saudi hospitals. The surprising news came on the same day, when the Deputy Health Minister, Ziad Memish, a key figure in the kingdom’s efforts to contain the epidemic was fired. Memish was criticized by international experts over his strategy to deal with the virus, notably his reluctance for collaboration, and is the second Saudi health official to lose his position after the Health Minister was sacked in April.
According to international experts in epidemiology, the inappropriate infection control practices in Saudi hospitals led to the rapid increase of new infections in April. After all, most of the cases were found in healthcare workers who got infected after having contact with ill patients.