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Anger as six COVID-19 patients die in Jordan hospital due to a reported shortage of oxygen supplies

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By Katy Dartford  with AP
Anger as six COVID-19 patients die in Jordan hospital due to a reported shortage of oxygen supplies
Copyright  AP Photo

Jordan's King Abdullah II visited a hospital in the town of Salt on Saturday, hours after six patients in a COVID-19 ward died due to a reported shortage of oxygen supplies.

Angry crowds, as well as supporters of Abdullah, surrounded his vehicle, some cheering for him and others shouting slogans like: "The country has drowned".

The king was escorted closely by security forces as people crowded around him.

Later, an oxygen tanker was seen arriving at the hospital with liquid oxygen.

Jordan's health minister stepped down after the incident, while Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh ordered an investigation into the deaths early Saturday morning at the hospital in Salt, 20 kilometres north of the capital Amman.

The Middle Eastern kingdom has reported over 465,000 cases and more than 5,200 deaths during the pandemic. Last month, it tightened restrictions, restoring weekend lockdown and nighttime curfews, to curb the spread of the virus.

Jordan launched its vaccination drive in mid-January with plans to inoculate over four million residents in 2021.

Fares Kharabsha, an eyewitness to the incident and son of two coronavirus patients in the hospital's coronavirus isolation zone who experienced the oxygen shortage, said members of the civil defence inside the hospital helped provide oxygen cylinders and resuscitated patients, including his parents.

He also said he saw dead people, though wasn't sure of the numbers.

"These deaths (are) due to carelessness, a clear carelessness," he added.

Another eyewitness and son of coronavirus patients, Habis Kharabsha, complained of a lack of sufficient services at the hospital and said he gave his CPR three times to his father and twice to his mother.

The coronavirus isolation zone in the hospital has just one doctor and two nurses for 50 to 60 patients, he added, calling it "unfair".

About 150 relatives of the patients gathered outside the hospital, which was surrounded by a large deployment of police and security officers, who prevented the families from entering.