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Saudi man dies in kingdom from MERS coronavirus: Health Ministry

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Saudi man has died of the coronavirus Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the Saudi Health Ministry said on Saturday, raising to 39 the number of deaths from the SARS-like virus in the kingdom where it first emerged last year.

"The Ministry of Health has announced the death of one case, who had been previously announced to be infected with this virus in Asir, may Allah have mercy upon him," the ministry said in a statement.

An 83-year-old man from the same southern province was also confirmed to have contracted the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases inside the kingdom to 66, the ministry said.

The World Health Organization said earlier this month that MERS, which can cause fever, coughing and pneumonia, had not yet reached pandemic potential and may simply die out.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims come to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan for umrah, a pilgrimage that can be carried out at any time of year.

Millions are also expected to travel to Mecca for the main haj pilgrimage which falls in October this year, but the authorities have cut the number of visas this year, citing safety concerns over expansion work at the main mosque site.

WHO experts said last month that countries at risk from MERS should put in place plans for handling mass gatherings but has stopped short of recommending restrictions on travel.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi)

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