Despite the Saudis starting as early as February in shutting key public sites down in the kingdom, including the historically unprecedented shuttering of the pilgrimage to Mecca, it's been reported this week that COVID-19 has hit the Saudi royal family hard.
A source close to the royal family told The New York Times Wednesday that up to 150 members of the Saudi royal family have contracted the coronavirus.
Appropriately titled Coronavirus Invades Saudi Inner Sanctum the Times report says that even King Salman has been moved to isolation near the city of Jeddah, after his nephew and governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulziz al Saud, tested positive. The prince is said to be in intensive care in serious condition.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is also working isolation on the Red Sea coast, as are many of his ministers. There are thousands of princes as well as ministers close to the family across the kingdom.
The situation appears dire, from which even Saudi elites cannot escape:
The senior Saudi prince who is governor of Riyadh is in intensive care with the coronavirus. Several dozen other members of the royal family have been sickened as well. And doctors at the elite hospital that treats Al-Saud clan members are preparing as many as 500 beds for an expected influx of other royals and those closest to them, according to an internal “high alert” sent out by hospital officials.
“Directives are to be ready for V.I.P.s from around the country,” the operators of the elite facility, the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, wrote in the alert, sent electronically Tuesday night to senior doctors. A copy was obtained by The New York Times.
"We don't know how many cases we will get but high alert," said the message. It directed that "all chronic patients to be moved out ASAP" and only "top urgent cases" will be accepted, according to the report.
And then there's the fact that the princes' high spending luxury life styles have been hampered by the outbreak: "Many of the thousands of princes in the family are believed to have brought back the virus after traveling to Europe, the newspaper reported, citing doctors and people close to the family."
The country at this point has 41 deaths from the virus and 2,795 cases, however, health officials warn the number of cases in the weeks ahead “will range from a minimum of 10,000 to a maximum of 200,000,” according to the words of Saudi health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah.
Thus leaders in Riyadh are expecting the kingdom's numbers to peak in parallel with the US expected peak, now the global epicenter with over 430,000 cases.