Sources tell Almasdar Online that there are at last two confirmed cases in Sana’a, as well
COVID-19 update: A day after Health Ministry denial, five COVID-19 cases confirmed in Aden
Yemen’s Supreme National Emergency Committee for Coronavirus announced five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the interim capital of Aden Wednesday. A government official confirmed to Almasdar Online that two of the five patients have died. Separately, two sources – a doctor and a World Health Organization (WHO) employee — told Almasdar Online that there are at least two confirmed cases in Sana’a.
The news comes one day after the Health Ministry in Aden denied reports of new coronavirus cases in the governorate, and accused social media users reporting rumors of COVID-19 cases of fueling panic.
"There are at least 14 deaths as a result of the floods that have led some social media users to misinterpret the matter, causing panic among residents," the Health Ministry said in a press release issued Tuesday.
"The [health officials] carried out a field visit and confirmed that there [were] no cases of coronavirus in Aden," the statement said. A government official told Almasdar Online that the Health Ministry tested patients with suspected COVID-19 Monday, before confirming the cases Wednesday.
A doctor in Aden, Amr Qassem Al-Turki, wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday that he had seen many patients with COVID-19 symptoms.
“[It is] the fourth day we see the spread of so many unusual cases of acute and severe respiratory infections.”
He described examining 10 patients personally, all with the same symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath. The five patients still living needed to be intubated, he said.
"[I] informed the Health Ministry in Aden and the epidemiological surveillance team, and contacted them repeatedly [to examine the patients,] but they would not because of their lack of training and preparation,” he speculated. Three of his colleagues – all specialists – are hospitalized in Aden with coronavirus symptoms.
On Tuesday, the UN issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned about the possible spread of undetected COVID-19 cases in the country.
Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, Yemen had one suspected case of COVID-19, confirmed on April 10 in the town of Al-Sheher in Hadhramout. Officials on the national coronavirus committee said in a statement released last week that the patient, a 60-year-old port worker, had recovered and that no one the patient had been in contact with had tested positive.
“There’s no time to lose. People have to be informed accurately and quickly about what is happening so they can do what’s necessary to protect themselves and their families,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande.
As Yemen enters its sixth year of war, its shattered health infrastructure has already been overwhelmed by the largest outbreak of cholera in human history, as well as outbreaks of other preventable diseases including malaria and dengue fever. Saudi-led airstrikes, Houthi shelling and the militarization of hospitals and health care facilities have left Yemen with half of its facilities functioning.
A five year-long blockade on imports in a country that imports 90 percent of its staple foods has contributed to a humanitarian disaster that the UN has called the worst in the world.
With 80 percent of the country in need of humanitarian assistance, medical professionals worry what the spread of COVID-19 would do to Yemen’s already chronically hungry population.
The announcement of coronavirus cases in Aden comes days after one of the parties to the conflict, the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), announced self-administration across southern Yemen, provoking condemnation from the Yemeni government, the Saudis and numerous governments and organizations around the world. The critics have called on the STC to recant its declaration and return to the Riyadh Agreement, a Saudi-brokered peace deal designed to incorporate the STC into Yemen’s internationally recognized government in Aden.
Edited by Ahlam Mohsen and Casey Coombs