Via Reuters, an informative report: Jeddah residents jittery over spread of deadly MERS virus. Excerpt:
On Monday, King Abdullah replaced health minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah, a noted surgeon whose attempts to reassure the public with reminders that MERS is not easily spread between people were dismissed by many Saudis as an attempt to downplay the gravity of the situation.
Despite heading a team that separated a pair of conjoined twins on April 10, when three new MERS cases were identified in Jeddah, al-Rabeeah lacked the popular touch of the man who has replaced him on an acting basis, Labour Minister Adel Fakieh.
Fakieh's first moves in his new job were to tour Jeddah's King Fahd Hospital, where some of the cases were discovered, and to pledge to uphold "the principles of transparency".
King Fahd Hospital felt unusually quiet for a major city health facility this week.
Almost every person in the building wore masks. Posters in the mainly empty waiting rooms advised on preventative measures such as wearing masks and gloves and frequent hand-washing.
"It's normal for there to be a panic during an outbreak because it's a high mortality event. People get the flu and then in five or six days they're on a ventilator," said Maun Nizar Feteih, a consultant pulmonologist in Jeddah.
"Even as healthcare workers, we panic because we see colleagues - doctors and nurses we work with - who are suddenly in intensive care. But ... I think things are moving in a positive direction," Feteih added.
He said authorities had worked to educate both healthcare workers and patients about prevention and had collaborated with hospitals to isolate suspected and confirmed cases.
LOSS OF CREDIBILITY
That view was not universally shared by people working in Jeddah hospitals, however.
"Healthcare workers lost trust in the Health Ministry. It lost its credibility," said a senior healthcare worker in the city with decades of experience.
She pointed to what she described as poor file-keeping, an initial lack of protective clothing and proper guidance and resistance by some administrators to report MERS cases.
In the expensive Khaldiya neighborhood, where the pink flowers of bougainvillea bushes spill over the tops of residential walls, the al-Sudais pharmacy was doing a roaring trade in face masks and hand-sanitizing gels.
"Jeddah people are scared. They come in here and buy vitamins, calcium tablets, pain killers and flu drugs. They buy four or five cartons of face masks at a time and boxes of hand sanitizers," said Gassan Youssef, 22, a salesman.
But not all of those walking the city's muggy streets or strolling the marbled corridors of its chilled shopping malls were worried about being infected while out in public.
A taxi driver waved a dismissive hand across his bushy grey beard and said dozens of people died in car crashes on Jeddah's roads every week.
"Why should we worry because one or two people get this virus?" he asked.