As many as 150 members of the Saudi Arabian royal family may have been infected with coronavirus, according to a new report.
The infections are supposedly a key element in the Saudi decision to announce a ceasefire in Yemen, where Riyadh has been battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels on behalf of the country’s deposed president since 2015.
According to The New York Times, as many as 150 Saudi royals are believed to have contracted the virus, including members of the lesser branches of the extensive family. The Times cited a person close to the family as giving the information. Newsweek has contacted the Saudi government and its embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment.
Saudi Arabia reported its first coronavirus case six weeks ago. There have now been 2,932 confirmed cases in the kingdom, with 41 deaths and 631 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Among them—according to the Times—is the senior prince and Riyadh governor Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The prince, a nephew of King Salman, is in intensive care, according to doctors at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital—an elite institution where royals are cared for—who spoke to the Times.
An internal memo sent around the hospital has said that up to 500 beds have been prepared for royals and those close to them as the pandemic takes hold. King Salman, 84, is self-isolating at an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the country’s Red Sea coast.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 34—the royal heir widely considered the true power behind the throne—is holed up with ministers at another property on the Red Sea coast, the Times said.
Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah has warned that the country’s coronavirus battle is only just beginning, predicting “a minimum of 10,000 to a maximum of 200,000” infections over the coming weeks.
Saudi Arabia has shut down travel to and from the country and placed its largest cities under 24-hour lockdown, with limited exceptions. Officials may also cancel the annual hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, which brings some 2.5 million pilgrims to the city each year. -newsweek