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Yemen Announces First Confirmed Coronavirus Case

Yemen Announces First Confirmed Coronavirus Case

Friday, 10 April, 2020 - 09:45
Aid groups have warned that a COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen would be catastrophic. AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat

The supreme national emergency committee for the COVID-19 disease in Yemen said the country has recorded its first case on Friday.

A 60-year-old Yemeni man was diagnosed in the southern oil-producing region of Hadhramout, an area controlled by Yemen’s legitimate government, the committee said.

Spokesman Ali al-Walidi told a news conference the man, who works in the small port of Ash Shihr, was in stable condition at a quarantine center.

Authorities have ordered the closure of Ash Shihr port for a week for deep cleaning and instructed workers there to isolate themselves at home for two weeks, according to a directive seen by Reuters.

They have also imposed a 12-hour nightly curfew in Hadhramout starting from 6:00 pm on Friday.

The governors of neighboring Shabwa and Al Mahra ordered the sealing of their borders with Hadhramout as of Friday.

The news of the laboratory-confirmed case came after a nationwide ceasefire prompted by the coronavirus pandemic began on Thursday. A Saudi-led Arab coalition said it would halt military operations for two weeks. The Iran-backed Houthi militias have yet to follow suit.

Aid groups have warned that a COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen would be catastrophic because of the damaged health system.

If the virus spreads in Yemen, the impact would be “catastrophic”, its UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande had told Reuters, as the health status of at least half the population is “very degraded” and the country does not have sufficient supplies or facilities.

“This is one of the biggest threats in the past 100 years to face Yemen,” Grande said in a statement on Friday. “It’s time for the parties to stop fighting each other and start fighting COVID together.”

Al-Walidi earlier told Reuters that quarantine centers had been set up in Hadhramout, Al Mahra and Aden in the south.

He said the government committee was requesting ventilators, oxygen tanks and hospital beds from the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordination with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center to be divided between areas under control of the legitimate government and those held by the Houthis.

The WHO said it was providing support to Yemen’s health ministry.

“We are following the case and its contacts to assess the level of exposure,” Yemen representative Altaf Musani said.

WHO recently told Reuters it was working to provide Yemen with the ability to test thousands of patients. It has already provided 500 testing kits. Some 37 health facilities have been dedicated as isolation units.

The United Nations is trying to set up virtual talks among the warring parties to discuss a permanent truce, a coordinated coronavirus response, humanitarian and economic confidence-building steps and the resumption of peace negotiations.

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