Jordan’s health minister has stepped down after at least six patients in a hospital Covid-19 patient ward died due to a shortage of oxygen supplies, state media reported.

The Jordanian prime minister, Bisher al-Khasawneh, ordered an investigation into the deaths early on Saturday morning at a government hospital in the town of Salt, 13 miles (20km) north of the capital, Amman.

He asked the health minister, Nathir Obeidat, to resign, according to the reports. Al-Ra’i, a pro-government newspaper, confirmed that Obeidat had resigned.

Jordan, home to 10 million people, is grappling with surging coronavirus infections and deaths and struggling to secure vaccines.

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.

One of those waiting anxiously outside was Fares Kharabsha, whose parents are Covid-19 patients. He was inside when the oxygen ran out in the ward and said medical and civil defence workers and people from outside the hospital rushed with portable oxygen devices to try to prevent more deaths.

“They resuscitated a large number of people, including my father and mother,” he said. “I do not know how many, but I saw people who died.”

Another relative, Habis Kharabsha, complained of a lack of sufficient services at the hospital. “At the isolation department, there was only one doctor and two nurses for 50 or 60 patients; this is mad,” he said.

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

Jordan launched its vaccination drive in mid-January with plans to inoculate more than 4 million residents in 2021. On Friday, the country received 144,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine delivered through the global Covax initiative.

The Covax alliance aims to share Covid-19 vaccines with more than 90 lower- and middle-income nations. However, the programme is facing delays, underfunding and limited supplies.

The EU has allocated €8m (£6.9m) to support Jordan’s purchase of vaccines. A second shipment from Covax is expected in April.

This content first appear on the guardian

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