Coronavirus Invades Saudi Inner Sanctum: NY Times

Cases in the Kingdom could reach 200,000: Minister

DESPARDES — A senior Saudi prince who is the governor of Riyadh is in intensive care with the coronavirus, which may have infected many in the clan’s ranks, New York Times reports.

Several dozen other members of the royal family have been sickened as well. And doctors at the elite hospital that treats Al-Saud clan members are preparing as many as 500 beds for an expected influx of other royals and those closest to them, according to an internal “high alert” sent out by hospital officials.

It’s been more than six weeks since Saudi Arabia reported its first case. The kingdom’s biggest cities are all under a 24-hour lockdown. On Monday, authorities extended the duration of daily curfews in four governorates and five cities.

As many as 150 royals in the kingdom are now believed to have contracted the virus, including members of its lesser branches, according to a person close to the family.

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 34-year-old de facto ruler, has retreated with many of his ministers to the remote site on the same coast where he has promised to build a futuristic city known as Neom.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, so far has reported 41 deaths from the coronavirus and 3,122 confirmed cases. But Saudi health officials warned Tuesday that the epidemic was just getting started. The number of infections over the next few weeks “will range from a minimum of 10,000 to a maximum of 200,000,” the health minister, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

King Salman has warned of a “more difficult” fight ahead against the virus, as the kingdom faces the economic double blow of virus-led shutdowns and crashing oil prices.