Yemen records first coronavirus case in Taiz province as virus spreads

FILE PHOTO: A health worker takes temperature of passengers of a van, amid fear of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the outskirts of Taiz, Yemen April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub

Yemen reported the first case of the novel coronavirus in a third province on Friday, raising the number of diagnosed infections to seven with two deaths in one of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

The United Nations says it fears the virus could be spreading undetected in the country where a five-year war has shattered health systems and left millions acutely malnourished.

“A new confirmed case of coronavirus was reported, the first in (southwestern) governorate of Taiz, in a man in his 40s,” the national emergency coronavirus committee said in a Twitter post.

“The patient is receiving care at a quarantine centre and measures have been taken by the monitoring teams and the health department for those who interacted with him.”

Yemen recorded its first case of COVID-19 in southern Hadharamout province on April 10. On Wednesday, it announced five infections in the southern port of Aden, with two deaths.

Yemen is already grappling with the world’s largest humanitarian crisis caused by the war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi group that ousted the government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

The World Health Organisation has said it fears the worst about the COVID-19 impact in Yemen as its population has some of the lowest levels of immunity and most acute vulnerability to disease compared with other countries.

Around 80% of the population, or 24 million people, rely on humanitarian aid and 10 million are at risk of starvation. Disease is rife and some like dengue fever share the same symptoms as the novel coronavirus, making it harder to detect.

Yemen is also split into rival power centres. On Wednesday the Aden-based government’s emergency coronavirus committee voiced concern that Houthi officials were not admitting to a coronavirus outbreak in Sanaa. The group’s health authorities said all suspected cases there had tested negative for COVID-19.

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