Saudi Arabia fires deputy health minister over Mers

Ziad Memish was a key figure in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to contain the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) and has been under intense international scrutiny over his handling of the disease.

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RIYADH/LONDON // Saudi Arabia has sacked deputy health minister Ziad Memish who has been criticised by some international scientists over his handling of the deadly Mers virus that has infected 575 people in the kingdom and spread around the world.

Mr Memish was a key figure in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to contain the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), a virus that causes coughing, fever and sometimes fatal pneumonia.

It has killed 190 people in Saudi Arabia since it was identified two years ago and cases have been found in other countries in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the United States. So far, much evidence points to camels as a possible source for Mers infection.

“Acting Health Minister Adel Fakieh has issued a decision today to relieve deputy health minister Doctor Ziad Memish from his position,” said a statement posted on the ministry’s website in Arabic on Monday. It did not elaborate.

Mr Memish is the second senior Saudi health official to lose his job in six weeks after health minister Abdullah Al Rabeeah was sacked when the rate of new infections started to rise rapidly in mid-April.

* Reuters