Doctors in Al-Baydha ring alarm bell over COVID-19 spread in the governorate
The death toll in Rada’a city and surrounding areas of Al-Baydha has been mounting in recent days, according to health officials in the central governorate who are warning that the indicators of a COVID-19 outbreak are present.
A total of 26 individuals in the Houthi-controlled Rada’a are believed to have died from COVID-19, including six deaths on Thursday, medical sources in Rada’a city told Almasdar Online.
According to the local sources, the virus began spreading during the first week of Ramadan (last week of April), but Houthi officials in the city clamped down on individuals publishing information about the disease and imprisoned them for reasons of “national security.” The number of suspected infections and associated deaths then increased dramatically by the end of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid in late May, when an increase in travel and family gatherings is typically experienced.
The Houthis have been widely criticized for their delayed response to the pandemic, and for continuing to censor public health officials from discussing the spread of the disease in areas under the group’s control.
After considerable community pressure and widespread criticism, over the past week Houthi authorities in Rada’a announced a number of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus this past week, including banning Friday prayers in mosques, implementing a curfew in a number of neighborhoods, and banning the use of wedding halls and funeral ceremonies.
According to medical sources at Rada’a Central Hospital, there are entire neighborhoods in Rada’a city witnessing the outbreak of the disease, including Al-Sabira and Al-Salam neighborhoods. The situation deteriorated, according to the sources, due to the lack of safety measures like isolating the infected, as well as the refusal by some people to seek medical attention for themselves or their relatives due to the “needle of mercy.” According to this unsubstantiated rumour, in some Houthi-controlled health facilities coronavirus patients are being murdered by injection.
According to the hospital workers, a number of villages surrounding the city of Rada’a became infected with the disease, such as the village of Al-Salil, Qarn Al-Assad, and Mallah. Some individuals are delaying seeking help until the virus reaches its final stages and respiratory functions decrease to about 30 percent, leading many to die hours after arriving at the hospital.
Tracking the spread
Some residents of Rada’a city attribute the outbreak to the measure by the Houthis to implement a quarantine for people driving through Al-Baydha, which is one of the main routes for cross-country travel. The authorities housed hundreds of travellers in schools in the middle of the city, which had little to no health standards, and some of the “quarantined” individuals were permitted to leave momentarily to purchase qat from the local market.
A medical source at the isolation center of Rada’a Central Hospital said that by analysing the names of those who are suspected of being infected with the virus, more than 90 percent either traveled to the capital Sana’a and were infected there and returned, or they mingled with others who came from Sana’a to Rada’a at the end of Ramadan to spend the Eid holiday with their families.
The source added that residents’ leniency with regards to precautionary measures allowed the virus to spread faster, as locals continued to attend large gatherings and visit crowded places such as markets. The funeral of businessman Mohammed Yahya Abu Al-Rijal, who died in Sana’a from suspected complications with COVID-19 and was then taken to Rada’a for burial, was given as an example by the source, who pointed out that hundreds of locals attended the funeral.
Edited by Alkhatab Alrawhani