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Saudi health chief fired over MERS

AFP-JIJI, AP

Saudi Arabia dismissed its health minister on Monday, just days after he visited a hospital at the center of growing concerns about the kingdom’s handling of the MERS virus.

Abdullah al-Rabiah was named adviser to King Abdullah and was replaced by Labor Minister Adel Fakieh, a royal decree carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that two Saudi men who contracted the virus had died, and that 17 new cases had been detected in four cities, bringing the total number of people infected to 261.

At least 81 people are believed to have died in the kingdom due to the virus since September 2012.