- Saudi-led forces airdropping virus-infected masks in Yemen: Minister
- Shami urged media and activists to warn citizens against touching or wearing the masks.
Sana”a (ANN)-Frirs case of infection with the novel Coronavirus Yemen has reported its in a southern province under the control of Saudi-sponsored militiamen loyal to the country’s former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
This has raised fears of an outbreak in an impoverished country where five years of a bloody campaign led by the regime in Riyadh have shattered the health system.
The first case in Yemen was seen days after the Minister of Information warned that Saudi Arabia was distributing virus-infected masks. Shami urged media and activists to warn citizens against touching or wearing the masks.
The supreme national emergency committee for COVID-19 in Yemen said in a posting on its Twitter page on Friday that the case was diagnosed in the oil-producing Hadhramaut province.
The committee said the infected patient has been identified in the port town of Ash Shihr, and he was in stable condition and receiving care.
The local governor, Farag al-Bouhsni, said on his Facebook page that the area would be placed under a partial curfew and all workers at the town’s port will be quarantined for 14 days.
He added the neighboring Mahra province has closed its border with Hadhramaut.
Reuters reported that authorities ordered the closure of Ash Shihr port for a week for extensive cleaning, and instructed workers there to isolate at home for two weeks.
They also imposed a 12-hour night-time curfew in all districts of the province, starting from 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Friday until further notice.
Control of Hadhramaut has long been divided. The coastal towns are in the hands of the Hadi loyalists, while parts of the interior are kept an eye on by the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terrorists.
Aid groups have warned that the impact is likely to be catastrophic when the coronavirus does hit Yemen with few resources left to respond.
Also on Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was providing support to Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population.
“We are following the case and its contacts to assess the level of exposure,” the WHO representative in Yemen Altaf Musani told Reuters.
Yemen’s information minister has raised last week the possibility of the face masks airdropped by Saudi-led warplanes in Sana’a and other cities being infected with the new coronavirus, urging media outlets and activists to spread awareness of the danger.
Dhaifullah al-Shami said given the fact that the Saudi-led coalition has turned Yemen into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis through years of lethal military aggression, it is a big surprise to see coalition forces distributing masks across the capital and several other Yemeni provinces, the Middle East Monitor press observatory organization reported on Tuesday.
Shami urged media and activists to warn citizens against touching or wearing the masks.
The official added Yemen had not yet identified any cases of the infection in the war-torn country amid the pandemic, which has affected almost all world states and has claimed more than 42,000 lives worldwide.
Therefore, he concluded, the Saudi aggressors would be responsible for any emergence of the outbreak in Yemen. They have already displayed their intention to afflict Yemen with the virus by targeting a quarantine center in al-Salif District of the western province of Hudaydah Province, the minister added.
The head of the local council in Sana’a has also warned citizens against touching the masks.
Meanwhile, Abdulmohsen Tawoos, head of the Houthi-run humanitarian affairs coordination council, said Saudi Arabia is turning back patients with suspected coronavirus infection, putting Yemen, where the medical sector has already been decimated, at a grave risk.
He noted that Yemeni security forces are making strenuous efforts to control and arrange their repatriation.
“The coalition of aggression is enforcing the (Yemen) blockade, and does allow the entry of a small fraction of humanitarian aids to say that Sana’a airport is operating,” Tawoos said.
“The WHO has provided only 30 smart thermal imaging cameras as well as limited medical supplies. The global health body has stated that there must be cases of infection with COVID-19 in Yemen in order to dispatch aids.”
Also on Sunday, Yemen’s official Saba Net news agency cited the country’s Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as confirming the coalition’s new tactic of airdropping “various supplies” across the country.
It warned that the aggressors were trying to use the outbreak “as a means of war on our people and the targeting of Yemen, which is by far one of the three countries in the world completely free of the coronavirus outbreak.”
“Carrying out such suspicious operations, reflect their criminal intentions,” the Council said.
Yemen’s al-Masirah news network, meanwhile, ran an article comparing the tactic to historical allegations that the British forces contributed to the genocide of Native Americans in 1763 by distributing infected blankets among them.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring Hadi back to power and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed during the bitter war.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom in their war on Yemen.
Riyadh and its allies have been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll resulted from their bombing campaign in Yemen.
At least 80% of the 28 million-strong population is reliant on aid to survive in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.