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Saudi hospital on 'high alert' as 150 royals contract coronavirus

Saudi Arabia's elite hospital, which treats members of the kingdom's royal family, is said to be on "high alert" as senior members of the Al Saud clan become infected with COVID-19. As many as 150 royals in the kingdom are now believed to have contracted the virus, according to a report in the New York Times.

The highest royal to be infected so far is Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – the governor of the capital Riyadh who is in his 70s. He is said to be in intensive care after contracting the virus. Several dozen other members of the royal family have been sickened as well, reported the Times.

READ: Will the coronavirus claim Saudi's 'Vision 2030' as its victim?

Doctors at the elite King Faisal Specialist Hospital are on "high alert" according to an internal memo sent out electronically on Tuesday to senior doctors and later obtained by the Times. According to the "high alert" the hospital is preparing 500 beds for a potential influx of VIP patients.

The internal memo said that the number of royals that could be brought in for intensive care is not known but it nonetheless contained instructions to clear out all chronic patients "ASAP" adding that only "top urgent cases" will be accepted.

READ: Dubai and Saudi impose lockdowns as Gulf states battle spread of coronavirus

Eighty-four-year old King Salman is thought to have secluded himself on an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea while Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman has retreated to the same remote site on the same coast, with his ministers.

The spread of the virus to the "inner sanctums' of the royal family is likely to pose a serious problem for Riyadh. "If it is reaching into the family, then it becomes an urgent issue," said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a professor at Rice University who studies the kingdom.

There are thousands of Saudi princes. Many travel regularly to Europe and some are believed to have contracted the virus abroad and brought it back to Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry recorded 147 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 2,752. On the same day the kingdom's health minister warned that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country could reach 200,000 in the coming weeks.

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