Saudi Arabia's MERS death toll now stands at 68.
Saudi Arabia's MERS death toll now stands at 68.Reuters

A foreign national has died from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, bringing the nationwide death toll to 68.

The nationality of the 45-year-old man was not disclosed but the Saudi health ministry said eight further people, including five health workers, were infected by MERS in Jeddah.

The total number of people infected by the virus in the world's most affected country now stands at 189. MERS first appeared in Saudi Arabia in September 2012 and was initially concentrated in the eastern region before spreading to other areas.

Saudi health minister Abdullah al-Rabinah visited hospitals in Jeddah on Saturday, days after the virus spread among medical staff leading to the closure of the emergency room at the city's main public hospital.

Neighbouring Yemen reported its first case of MERS on Sunday, when a local man was revealed to have caught the disease.

Yemen's Public Health Minister Ahmed al-Ansi told al-Thawra newspaper: "Medical personnel have recorded one case of the coronavirus in Sanaa and the victim is a Yemeni man who works as an aeronautics engineer.

"The ministry is working in effective cooperation with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to confront this virus, and is in direct and constant communication with all hospitals to receive information on any other suspected cases."

The WHO said on Friday that it is aware of 212 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS worldwide, of which 88 have been fatal.

MERS is considered to be a deadlier but less transmissible variety of the SARS virus, which erupted in Asia in 2003, killing around 744 people and infecting over 8,000.