Ailing Saudi king chairs cabinet meeting from hospital, discusses Hajj and coronavirus preparations

Ailing Saudi king chairs cabinet meeting from hospital, discusses Hajj and coronavirus preparations
2 min read
22 July, 2020
The 84-year-old Saudi king chaired a cabinet meeting via a video conference from hospital after his was taken in for gall bladder problems.
King Salman is in stable condition [Getty]
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz is in a "stable condition" and headed a remote cabinet meeting from hospital following a health scare last week, as coronavirus continues to cause havoc in the country.

State media reported that the 84-year-old monarch had been admitted to the hospital over inflamed gall bladder issues, but did not go into detail about his condition.

The king sat behind a desk and chaired the cabinet meeting, which was later broadcast on Saudi state TV, and at the beginning of the session thanked everyone who checked on his health.

Leaders of Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan had contacted the king to look in on his health, state media reported.

The king underwent medical checks on Monday and a Royal Court statement confirmed that he had been admitted to the hospital without going into details about what sort of tests he had undergone.

Three Saudi sources who declined to be identified told Reuters the king was "fine".

The cabinet is thought to have spoken on preparations made for this year’s Hajj, given the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, Acting Minister of Media Dr Majid Al-Qasabi said the cabinet had looked at Covid-19 preparations for the pilgrimage, as well as discussing preventative and protective measures for the public.

Coronavirus has disrupted much of the country, with this year's Hajj being dramatically scaled down to include only around a thousand Muslim pilgrims as Saudi Arabia battles a coronavirus surge.

It will begin on 29 July, authorities said Monday, and the decision to exclude pilgrims arriving from outside Saudi Arabia is a first in the kingdom's modern history and has sparked disappointment among Muslims worldwide, although many accepted it as necessary due to the pandemic.

This year's Hajj will be held under strict hygiene protocols, with access limited to pilgrims under 65 years old and without any chronic illnesses.

"The stand of pilgrims on Mount Arafat, the peak of the Hajj ritual, falls on Thursday," the official Saudi Press Agency cited the Supreme Court as saying, indicating that Wednesday would be the first day of the annual event.

The country has seen some 253,349 cases so far including 2,523 deaths - the highest toll among the Arab Gulf states.

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