Saudi expat health centres close due to deadly virus fears

Published:  4 Jul at 6 PM
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Poor standards and bad management at 12 expat medical centres in Saudi Arabia has forced their closure amid fears of the spread of the MERS virus.

Expats working in the kingdom are concerned that their applications for visas and residency permits may be jeopardised by the recent closure of 12 expat health centres for decontamination and re-training of workers. The health tests are necessary requirements for the granting of work visas as well as residency permits for expats and their families.

The as yet uncontrolled spread of the MERS virus sparked a government investigation of all expat health centres, and resulted in 12 being immediately closed down. To date, almost 300 of the 600 affected by the respiratory infection have died, and there is no known cure as yet.

Inspectors reported that medical professionals in the health centres failed to isolate sufferers from the virus, kept poor medical records and were unable to contain its spread. Blood samples weren’t properly recorded and cross-contamination was encouraged by a general lack of hygiene.

Originally, MERS was confined to camels and primates, but is now known to have modified itself to infect humans. The World Health organisation has blamed the spread of the virus on contagion during pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia’s several holy sites, as all recently-diagnosed new cases involved those returning from pilgrimages.

According to the WHO, pilgrims may have eaten contaminated camel meat whilst at the holy sites, and the Saudi government is being accused of minimising the death toll so as not to deter pilgrims. Britain, where cases have already been reported, is warning against all but essential travel to the kingdom in order to avoid the risk of contracting the infection.
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