War-torn Yemen braces for China virus

War-torn Yemen braces for China virus
Yemenis gather with flowers outside the Chinese embassy in the capital Sanaa on February 4, 2020, to express their solidarity with people in China suffering from the Coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

War-torn Yemen braces for China virus

War-torn Yemen braces for China virus
  • The government will build a quarantine facility at Al-Sadaka hospital in Aden
  • There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Yemen

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government has set up an emergency committee to counter the threat of coronavirus, and ordered air and seaports to remain on heightened alert. 

Salem Al-Khanbashi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister and head of the committee, told Arab News that fever detectors will be installed at all Yemeni entry points.

The emergency committee includes members of government bodies, World Health Organization officials and aid groups. 

Al-Khanbashi said the government will build a quarantine facility at Al-Sadaka hospital in Aden in case the virus reaches the country. 

“We have ordered seaports and airports to intensify their checkups. A health committee will inspect preparations at entry points,” Al-Khanbashi said.

There have been no confirmed coronavirus cases in Yemen, and the country’s airports and seaports have no direct links with China.

However, health officials believe the virus might enter the country through Aden and Seiyun airports, said Al-Khanbashi.

“We have no problem with land border crossings. We predict that the coronavirus might come through airports,” he said.

Yemen’s deputy leader said there were no plans to evacuate 173 Yemenis, mostly students, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is at the center of the outbreak. 

“They are in good health. The government has sent student stipends plus foodstuffs,” he said. 

Health facilities in Yemen have crumbled during the current conflict, which began when Iran-backed Houthi rebels stormed Sanaa and extended their grip in other regions of the country.

Outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever have killed scores of people, and the country faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according the UN.

Thousands of Yemeni patients travel to Egypt and Jordan for medical treatment each month.

Health experts have warned that bringing Yemenis home from virus-affected Chinese cities could pose a threat to the country.

Meanwhile, in Al-Mukalla, capital of the southeastern province of Hadramout, a meeting of army, port and health officials decided to monitor all arrivals at the seaport, one of the busiest in Yemen.

From Sunday, cargo workers at the port will be asked to wear face masks and rubber gloves, and wash their hands regularly. 

Omer Bakrshoum, head of the port’s health department, told Arab News that four health workers will be deployed at Al-Mukalla seaport to check arrivals and educate port workers about the illness. 

If suspected cases are found on board a ship, the vessel will not be allowed to enter the port and the case will be isolated on the same ship, Al-Mukalla said. 

Officials also discussed turned back ships with suspected cases due to lack of health facilities. Fishermen who sail to the Horn of African will not be examined till the virus hits Somalia. 

“At the moment, it is difficult to check all the fishermen,” Salem Ali Basamer, manager of Al-Mukalla seaport, said.

His main concern is that the virus could reach India, which has a direct shipping link with Al-Mukalla.

“If the plague reaches India, we will be forced to restrict sailing to the country,” he said.