Jordan oxygen shortage linked to six coronavirus deaths

Jordan's King Abdullah II ordered the head of the state hospital in the town of Salt northwest of Amman to resign, state media reported, as hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital to protest the deaths.

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AMMAN - At least six COVID-19 patients have died in a Jordan hospital after it ran out of oxygen early Saturday, the health minister announced before later tendering his resignation.

Jordan's King Abdullah II ordered the head of the state hospital in the town of Salt northwest of Amman to resign, state media reported, as hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital to protest the deaths.

"Between 6:00 and 7:00 this morning, oxygen ran out for nearly an hour at the hospital and this probably led to the deaths of six patients," Health Minister Nazir Obeidat said.

"As minister of health I assume full moral responsibility for what happened and I have submitted my resignation to the prime minister," Obeidat said. "So far I have not received a response."

Government spokesman Sakher Dodin said Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh had demanded Obeidat's resignation.

"The prime minister asked the health minister to step down," he told state-run Petra news agency.

Alarmed by the news of the deaths, the king went to Salt, where he visited the hospital and denounced the tragic incident, state-run Al-Mamlaka television said.

Abdullah demanded the head of the hospital step down, the network added.

And in video footage that circulated online, the king is heard saying to the hospital director: "How could such a thing happen. This is unacceptable."

After news of the deaths broke, hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital in outrage, AFP reporters said.

A medical source told AFP the patients who died were four men and two women, after an initial report said the dead were three men and three women.

The hospital in Salt was treating 150 COVID-19 patients, the source added.

Obeidat said oxygen was dispatched to the hospital later on Saturday.

Chief prosecutor Youssef Thiyabat told Al-Mamlaka three judges were investigating the deaths, after the premier ordered a probe.

Khasawneh said: "Everyone responsible should be held accountable."

The deaths come as the daily virus caseload in Jordan has surged in recent weeks, prompting authorities to reimpose restrictions, including an all-day curfew on Fridays, the day of rest and prayer.

Jordan, which began its Covid-19 vaccination drive in January, has recorded more than 460,000 coronavirus cases and over 5,200 deaths since the pandemic started last year.

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