Great Britain

Yemen confirms first coronavirus case in war-torn country

Yemen has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, a potentially devastating development in a country where five years of war have already decimated the medical sector.

The internationally recognised government said on Friday a male patient had been identified in the port town of Ash Shihr in the government-controlled province of Hadhramaut, but gave no further details other than the man is being treated and is in a stable condition.

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. Neighbouring al-Mahra province has closed its border with Hadhramaut, he added. Pictures of soldiers patrolling Ash Shihr’s empty streets were published by Yemeni media.

Health workers and aid agencies have been dreading the inevitable outbreak of Covid-19 in Yemen, where testing facilities are almost non-existent and the virus could have a uniquely dangerous impact.

More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed during the bitter war between Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sana’a, and the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition fighting to restore the exiled UN-backed government. The majority of attacks on civilian infrastructure have been carried out by the coalition, which is supported militarily by the UK, US and other western nations.

At least 80% of the 28 million-strong population is reliant on aid to survive in what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Deep poverty, dire water shortages and a lack of adequate sanitation have already made Yemen a breeding ground for malnutrition and disease, most notably the worst cholera outbreaks in modern history.

In an unprecedented step designed to show its awareness of the threat posed to Yemen by the pandemic, Riyadh began a unilateral two-week ceasefire on humanitarian grounds on Thursday.

If it sticks, it would be the first nationwide halt to the fighting after several recent failed attempts, but the move has been met with scepticism by Houthi leaders. “We consider the ceasefire a political and media manoeuvre,” the Houthi spokesman, Mohamed Abdel-Salam, told Al Jazeera.

Fierce fighting in al-Jawf governorate between rebel forces and militias loyal to the government, which has displaced tens of thousands of people, has sporadically continued since the ceasefire was announced. A rival Houthi offer of a ceasefire is highly conditional, and appears to apply only to Saudi Arabia, and not the Yemeni government.

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, said on Friday his office was in regular contact with both sides “on reaching agreements on a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian and economic measures to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people”.

Also on Friday, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said it was being forced to halve aid to Houthi-controlled Yemen due to a funding crisis.

The UN agency is feeding more than 12 million Yemenis a month, 80% of whom live in Houthi territory. From next week, deliveries will only reach families every other month, instead of monthly.

Some donors, including the US, have already cut funding to UN programmes in Yemen because of concerns aid has been diverted by Houthi authorities. Many aid workers have reported lengthy permit delays, harassment and detention as the rebels attempt to consolidate control over the management and distribution of resources.

Football news:

Bale and Mariano Diaz missed real's two-way game as a precaution. The Welshman is overworked
Ex-coach of the Kazanka river Klyuyev can lead Dinamo St. Petersburg
Barca defender Miranda is of Interest to Borussia Gladbach, Juventus, Betis, Porto and PSV
Tataev was our best player in both games. The coach of mladá Boleslav on the own goals of Alexis
Gianni Infantino: I have Heard Interesting proposals about the salary ceiling, limiting the amount of transactions, creating a reserve Fund
Herta Darida's midfielder ran 14.65 km in the game against Borussia Dortmund. This is a Bundesliga record
Neuer on the action black Lives matter: We are tolerant, open to the world and there should be no barriers to this