By Natalie O’Neill | New York Post
Up to 150 members of the Saudi Arabian royal family have been infected with the coronavirus — striking fear into the hearts of the authoritarian kingdom’s powerful rulers, according to a report Thursday.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — the 34-year-old heir widely considered the real power behind the throne — and his ministers have been placed in quarantine for safety near the Red Sea, while his father, King Salman, 84, is in precautionary isolation near the city of Jeddah, the New York Times reported.
King Salman’s nephew Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is confirmed to be in intensive care after contracting the deadly illness, according to the paper, which cited doctors and people close to the family. The 70-year-old is the governor of Riyadh.
Saudi princes are believed to have caught the pathogen while traveling to Europe — and the health calamity likely played a role in the country’s decision to announce a cease-fire in Yemen Thursday, according to the Times.
Up to 500 beds have been prepared for the royals and people close to them at the elite King Faisal Specialist Hospital as the pandemic rages, a memo cited by the paper says.
“Directives are to be ready for V.I.P.s from around the country,” operators of the hospital wrote, adding that sick staff members will now be treated at a less elite hospital to make room for the royals.
A total of 41 deaths from the virus and 2,795 cases have been reported in the country as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“If it is reaching into the family, then it becomes an urgent issue,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, an expert on the Saudi royal family from Rice University.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia declared a two-week cease-fire with Yemen, which has been fighting Iran-backed rebels on behalf of the country’s president since 2015.