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Wed 14 May 2014 12:30 PM

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Saudi schools to set up MERS clinics

Acting Health Minister also concedes no MERS-specific anti-infection measures are being taken at hospitals, despite an outbreak in a Jeddah emergency department last month

Saudi schools to set up MERS clinics
(Getty Images - Photo for illustrative purposes only)

All Saudi schools have been ordered to set up health clinics to prevent the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), local media have reported.

The clinics must be stocked with medical equipment and medicines needed to test for and treat the coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

The Education Department also is launching awareness campaigns across the kingdom and will issue schools with personal supplies of water, soap, and toilet paper for staff and students, as well as sterilisers to be placed in lifts and toilets and near doorways.

Well over 500 people have been infected with MERS, including 152 who have died, according to Saudi officials.

The World Health Organisation held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether a recent spike in cases has elevated the disease to an international emergency that would require global regulations to be implemented to stop it spreading further.

MERS already has been detected in 18 countries, including in geographical areas as varied as the US, Egypt, Malaysia and the UAE.

Saudi Acting Minister of Health Adel Fakeih, who took on the role after the former minister was relieved of his duties following an outbreak of MERS in a key hospital in Jeddah last month, reportedly made a surprise concession on Tuesday, saying that no MERS-specific anti-infection measures were being taken in Saudi hospitals.

Fakeih said MERS was spreading from either camels – which virologists have suggested are harbouring the virus – or hospitals, Saudi Gazette reported.

Residents have criticised the health system after a Jeddah hospital’s emergency department had to be shutdown to be completely sterilised after several medical workers contracted the virus.

Fakeih reportedly said the health ministry had now specified specific hospitals in each region that can accept coronavirus cases. They did not include the main centres in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.

An increasing number of virologists were travelling to the kingdom to research the virus in an attempt to develop a vaccine.

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