SAUDI ARABIA

Coronavirus: Saudis defy ban and kiss their camels

 Faced with , Saudi authorities have warned camel herders to be wary of their animals, which they believe transmit the disease. Yet many believe this is nonsense, and to show it, they are instead lavishing attention on their animals.

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Photo pusblished on Twitter by @nawaf4908.

 

Faced with a surge in the MERS coronavirus cases, Saudi authorities have warned camel herders to be wary of their animals, which they believe transmit the disease. Yet many believe this is nonsense, and to show it, they are instead lavishing attention on their animals.

 

The Saudi health ministry recently launched a campaign to raise awareness about the risks of eating raw camel meat or drinking unpasteurised camel milk after several camels tested positive for the virus. The ministry also recommended that camel herders wear masks and gloves.

 

Last week, 26 new contamination cases were registered, leading to the death of 10 people. The total number of reported cases is 339, 102 of which resulted in death, since the virus appeared in 2012.

 

Many people remained unconvinced by the government’s warnings. The video below, which was shared on social networks, features a camel herder protesting against a statement by Health Minister Adel Fakih, who had expressed the belief that the virus could be transmitted via camels. “The health minister says that they have corona”, the herder explains, then kisses his camel, telling the animal, “Go on, sneeze, sneeze”.+

 

 

Others have posted photos of themselves kissing their camels.

 

Camel meat and milk cure disease”, writes this Twitter user.

 

“May God protect us from the coronavirus. But, I can’t help it, I just have a particular affection for these camels…”

 

 

Others even believe the authorities are trying to distract people from the "real culprit".

 

“Camels have nothing to do with this disease. The pharmaceutical industry is responsible for this.”

 

 

On May 13, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that people suffering from certain diseases should avoid any contact with camels. Namely, those with diabetes, kidney problems, chronic pulmonary disease, or immune deficiencies should be careful, according to the organisation. WHO experts will meet Tuesday to decide whether to declare a public health emergency.

 

Camels play an important role for Bedouin people in Saudi Arabia as well as in other Gulf countries. Camels are renowned for their meat, milk, and even urine, which is said to have medicinal properties. Camel races are also very popular in the Saudi kingdom. One camel alone can fetch as much as several thousand dollars.