The Yemeni Emergency Committee’s sudden announcement of five confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, of which two had died, and the new rumors that have been spreading on social media, the closure of some hospitals and the fleeing of doctors, all created a state of horror among the people of Aden who have found themselves without any means to protect them from the pandemic that has exhausted major global economies and shaken their healthcare systems.
Amid a storm of rumors on social media about large numbers of cases that later turned out to be true, the committee that was formed by the government and transition council is facing a list of challenges. The most prominent of these challenges is the refusal of most healthcare workers to treat any suspected case because of the lack of the necessary protective equipment. Some hospitals have closed their doors due to a lack of protective equipment, while others have refused to receive any patient suspected of having a fever or respiratory problem.
Adel, a resident of Khormakser, explains how he went to one government hospital to deliver a glucose dose for his relative but could not find a nurse to administer it. Consequently, he visited a nurse that his family knows and asked her to administer the dose. Adel said: “Unfortunately, I do not know how this country could face a pandemic that exhausted the largest countries in the world”?
Salah, a government employee, says that the largest healthcare systems in the world have collapsed in front of COVID-19, let alone Yemen. He wonders, “How could you possibly convince someone whose family depends on a daily wage to abide by quarantine? We need to think about how those people, who are a majority, will survive”.
Amid this wave of rumors about cases and deaths and the manipulation of the aid provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Emergency Committee responded by holding an extraordinary meeting with the Prime Minister Main Abdelmalek to discuss the issues. It clarified that, contrary to what has been said, it has not received any international aid to confront the pandemic, except for some basic equipment that was provided by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action, and that there are substantial shortcomings in the response to calls by the WHO and others.
A physician’s story highlights how rumors are invading the city and stirring fear among residents. A story has been recently circulating on social media about an emergency physician who was infected with coronavirus and died. Activists wrote eulogies honoring his sacrifices, while others talked about how he was infected after coming in contact with one of the victims who had died before. However, his brother appeared in a video the next day confirming that he was receiving treatment in the hospital after inhaling a pesticide that he was using on a farm that he owns.
In an attempt to limit the spread of the rumors causing a state of panic, the Emergency Committee asked people to only resort to official sources for information and not be carried away by rumors that impede the work of medical staff and create a state of panic and fear in society.