Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

Coronavirus in Yemen: doctors brace for 'health disaster' with fresh cases

Head of disease control at Health Ministry warns people are not taking virus seriously enough

Yemen is braced for a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases as four new patients tested positive to Covid-19 in different areas of the country.

On Saturday, the Health Ministry announced four new confirmed cases in the provinces of Aden and Taez, bringing the tally to 10.

“All the newly recorded cases are in stable condition,” an official from the ministry in Aden told The National.

"They have been receiving medical care in medical quarantines in public hospitals in Aden and Taez."

The ministry is expecting the number of cases to rise sharply in coming days, said Dr Adham Awadh, head of the Disease Control Unit in the Health Ministry.

Dr Awadh said this would spark a health disaster.

“Despite the detection of the many cases in Aden and Hadramawt and Taez, people are still acting carelessly with the spread of the pandemic,” Dr Awadh told The National.

“We have seen how the pandemic struck big countries such as Britain and the US, despite their medical capabilities and highly developed medical infrastructure. We have nothing compared with them.

"That means a health disaster will hit our country unless people take it seriously and stay home and take all the precautionary measures such as home quarantining and social distancing.

“Everybody must feel that he is responsible for himself, his family and his community as well."

At least 80 private hospitals and clinics in the south of Yemen have closed since the first case was detected on April 10.

Many of them said they did not have enough personal protective equipment to keep staff safe, meaning treatments were being delayed or cancelled.

“All of the doctors, the assistant staff and the nurses refused to come to work fearing infection because we have received many suspected cases in the past couple of weeks,” Sameeh Ahmed, manager of a private hospital in Aden, told The National.

“Our staff will not work without any protection. We asked the Health Ministry to provide us with the equipment needed so we can reopen, but no response."

The Attorney General in Aden has ordered an investigation into the closure of private health centres.

Although international aid agencies are working with the government and the Houthis, the rebels – who control much of the country’s north and centre – have been accused of failing to adequately prepare for the virus.

Last month, Farea Al Muslimi, of Chatham House, said rebels “don’t see the urgency in the pandemic and there is an ignorance and indifference in Yemen that is more dangerous than the virus itself".

There are reports that the Houthis threatened to shoot any suspected carriers of Covid-19 on sight.

The Southern Transitional Council, who recently announced a plan for self-rule of Aden and neighbouring provinces, have hired private contractors to clear the streets of rubble and debris from last week’s deadly flooding.

The group’s spokesman, Nazar Haiytham, told The National that the STC has also been working with the UN and other international agencies, including Doctor without Borders, (MSF) to prepare the south for a possible virus outbreak.

“In the past few months we have been working with the UN country team in Aden and the other international partners such as the World Health Organisation and Doctors Without Borders to secure medical and testing supplies and to establish as many quarantine centres in the southern provinces to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Haiytham said.

“Furthermore, we have been working tirelessly to restore the basic needs for the people in the southern provinces, such as the power supply, water supply and sanitation.

"Additionally, we have been intensifying our response to the damage caused by the floods in the provinces of Aden and Lahej.”

He thanked neighbouring states who sent medical supplies, personal protection equipment and test kits.

“We are really grateful for the continuous support granted by our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and we call on them to keep up their support for us to pass such critical times,” Mr Haiytham said.

Updated: May 4, 2020 03:08 AM

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