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The Saudi Arabian government  Middle East Respiratory Syndrome  MERS

Riyadh, April 16 : The Saudi Arabian government has assured citizens that measures were in place to tackle the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus that has so far claimed 69 lives in the country.

After a cabinet meeting on Monday, Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja said: "The Cabinet was reassured about the health situation in general and in Jeddah after the minister's (health minister) inspection of several public hospitals in the city."

Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, after visiting several hospitals, assured the cabinet meeting that the situation was under control.

The statement comes in the wake of deaths of two expatriates and a male Saudi nurse till Monday in a hospital in Jeddah of Makkah Province, taking the overall cases of MERS coronavirus since September 2012 in Saudi Arabia to 194.

The meeting was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Crown Prince Salman.

The minister urged the media to refrain from publishing any news concerning the virus and other epidemic diseases except those approved by the government, the report said.

Earlier Saturday, Al-Rabeeah inspected several public hospitals in Jeddah to take stock of the measures being undertaken to control the disease that had caused alarm among Saudis and the expatriate population.

There have been several reports of people refusing to go to hospitals, and parents keeping their children at home, the report stated.

Several parents had also disallowed their children from attending schools fearing infection.

The education ministry, meanwhile, refuted reports about closure of schools "as there is no MERS coronavirus among students", the report stated.

The MERS virus emerged in the Middle East in 2012 and so far cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, Oman, Tunisia and parts of Europe.

WHO in its update last week, confirmed a total of 212 cases of infection, including 88 deaths, since 2012.

The report warned that: "People at high risk of severe disease due to MERS-coronavirus should avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating."

"For the general public, when visiting a farm or a barn, general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals, and following food hygiene practices, should be adhered to.(IANS)

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