More than six weeks after Saudi Arabia reported its first case, the COVID-19 is striking terror into the heart of the kingdom’s sprawling ruling family.
According to The NYT, As many as 150 royals inside the kingdom are believed to have contracted the coronavirus, including members of the family’s lesser branches, according to a person close to the family.
Doctors at the elite hospital that treats the Saud clan are preparing as many as 500 beds for an expected influx of royals and those closest to them, according to an internal “high alert” sent out Tuesday night by hospital officials.
“Directives are to be ready for VIPs from around the country,” the operators of the elite facility, the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, wrote in the alert, sent electronically to senior doctors. A copy was obtained by The New York Times.
“We don’t know how many cases we will get but high alert,” the message stated, instructing that “all chronic patients to be moved out ASAP,” and sick staff members will be treated elsewhere, to make room for the royals.
The senior Saudi who is the governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is in intensive care with COVID-19, according to two doctors with ties to the King Faisal hospital and two others close to the royal family. Prince Faisal is a nephew of King Salman.
King Salman, 84, has secluded himself in an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea. His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 34-year old de facto ruler, has retreated with many of his ministers to the remote site on the same coast.
Like the hospitalization this week of the British prime minister or the deaths last month of several top Iranian officials, the affliction of Saudi royals serves as a reminder that the rich and powerful are not immune, and that they have better access to testing and expert care.