Yemen government halts flights, closes schools

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Houthi deputy minister for Development and Economic Affairs Hussein Makbouli holds a press conference to address the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), in Sanaa on March 14, 2020. (AFP)
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A closed school is seen in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 16 March 2020

Yemen government halts flights, closes schools

  • On the streets, life has been largely uninterrupted by the government’s precautionary measures as large gatherings are still taking place across the country

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.

BACKGROUND

Measures come amid public skepticism that country is free of coronavirus.

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.”


Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

Updated 12 August 2020

Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

  • The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention

CAIRO: The fate of at least 35 Egyptian fishermen hangs in the balance after they were arrested by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Nov. 2 last year.  

The families of the fishermen have appealed to the Egyptian government to step up their efforts to secure their freedom as Cairo has been working on their release since November.

Little is known about the fate of the fishermen in Libya other than their location, after it was leaked to Egyptian authorities that they were held in the Turmina Prison, which is affiliated with the GNA.

The head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh, Ahmed Nassar, said they had not been able to communicate with the fishermen since last November and after their disappearance they came to learn that the GNA authorities had detained them.

The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention. Nassar said that the fishermen were not fishing in Libyan territory without a permit.

Nassar explained that the fishermen were working on Libyan boats. Alongside them were a number of colleagues working on boats that belong to the Al-Wefaq government. They were not approached by anyone unlike their detained colleagues who were arrested and sent to prison without being charged with any crime.

The Fishermen’s Syndicate chief said that people had called on the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the government, and the consular section had also been contacted about the matter.

Many of the detained fishermen come from Kafr El-Sheikh, while others come from Abu Qir in the governorate of Alexandria.

The fishermen had been supporting families of up to eight members.

Egyptian authorities say they are exerting great efforts to bring the fishermen back safely, while the fishermen’s families continue to demand safety and justice for the men.