AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has canceled flights to and from the country’s airports for two weeks, and ordered the closure of schools for one week, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
These decisions were made by the Yemeni Cabinet during a meeting in Riyadh on Saturday. Humanitarian flights are exempt from the ban.
Until last week, the country’s national carrier Yemenia flew weekly to Jeddah, Cairo, Amman and Mumbai.
Yemen’s Health Minister Nasir Baoum said health facilities across the war-torn country have not recorded any coronavirus cases, and all arrivals through air, land and seaports are subject to checks.
In Aden, health officials approved a plan to set up a quarantine for coronavirus patients at Al-Amel hospital after residents protested against establishing a quarantine at Al-Sadaka hospital for fear of an outbreak in densely populated areas of the port city.
In Hadramout, health officials said emergency teams in the province have not recorded any unusual deaths of patients at local intensive care units.
“Until now, there aren’t even suspected cases of coronavirus,” Dr. Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry office in Hadramout, told Arab News on Sunday. “Why would we hide information about new cases?”
The absence of coronavirus cases in Yemen “is expected given that the country has been on lockdown since the beginning of the war,” he said, denying rumors that some cases have been detected in Hadramout.
In Houthi-controlled provinces, where most of the country’s population lives, the Iran-backed militia halted UN flights from and into Sanaa and closed schools.
But in the streets of Al-Mukalla, Hadramout’s capital, people expressed skepticism about official reports that the country is free of coronavirus.
“I don’t trust them,” English teacher Abdullah Saleh told Arab News. “It’s impossible that they haven’t been able to record a suspected case. We’ve never seen them testing large gatherings inside cities.”
On the streets, life has been largely uninterrupted by the government’s precautionary measures as large gatherings are still taking place across the country.
On Saturday night, hundreds of football fans roamed the streets of Al-Mukalla honking cars, playing music and setting off fireworks following a local football tournament. Mosques, malls and shops are bustling with people.
“I can’t stop working. I’ll be burdened with debts if I stay at home,” said Abdullah, a middle-aged fish seller.
“The virus will face the fate of other diseases that die before spreading in Yemen. God will protect us.”