War-torn Yemen suffers it’s first coronavirus deaths, raising fears of a devastating outbreak throughout the country.
According to reports, the pair were brothers who died at a hospital in the southern port city of Aden. Authorities monitoring the outbreak confirmed five new cases of COVID-19 in Aden on Wednesday.
The United Nations has warned that the virus could be spreading undetected in a country where millions face famine and lack medical care. The authorities will be imposing a three day, 24-hour curfew.
“There was an announcement of five cases of coronavirus today — of those infections, there were two deaths,” Health Minister Nasser Baum told Yemen TV. “We conducted the tests twice, and they were positive,” he said.
“Therefore, there is no doubt under these worldwide circumstances that we have to announce they were cases of coronavirus until proven otherwise.” A medical source in Aden told the UAE-based newspaper, The National, that the five cases were detected in the city’s northern al-Mansourah district.
“The two cases who died are brothers,” the source was quoted as saying. “Both were transferred to a private hospital in al-Mansourah city, where they died on Monday and Tuesday,” the source added.
The first cases were reported in the government-controlled southeastern province of Hadramawt in April. The country has been largely spared from the effects of the pandemic so far with a total of 6 cases. Aid organisations warned any coronavirus outbreak could have dire consequences after six years of civil war.
An official in the Southern Transitional Council (STC) warned that it was very likely the number of COVID-19 cases would increase in the coming days.
Sources reported Reuters news agency that at least one case had also been confirmed in the capital, Sanaa, which is controlled by the rebel Houthi movement. The health ministry has said all suspected cases have tested negative in the capital so far.
Earlier this month, the Saudi-led coalition unilaterally declared a ceasefire in support of UN peace settlement efforts and a halt to the spread of Covid-19.
According to the United Nations, more than 3.5 million internally displaced people, returnees, refugees and asylum seekers are now relying on regular humanitarian aid to survive. While 10 million are facing famine, approximately 80 per cent of Yemen’s population, or 24 million people, rely on aid.