AL-MUKALLA: Local authorities in Yemen’s southeastern Hadramout province have imposed a curfew in major cities as the country steps up its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The move came as other regions began releasing low-risk prisoners to help protect prisons from an outbreak of the virus.
Maj. Gen. Faraj Al-Bahsani, Hadramout’s governor, said that he was forced to impose the curfew after people ignored appeals to stay at home and avoid gatherings.
The streets of Al-Mukalla and neighboring cities appeared empty as police and military vehicles roamed major roads to monitor the curfew from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Despite having not recorded a single case of the virus, at least five Yemeni provinces have begun releasing dozens of prisoners to protect them from the illness.
Authorities in Hadramout, Mahra, Shabwa and Dhalae have released 200, 49, 43 and 34 prisoners, respectively. All had completed the bulk of their sentences or were low-risk inmates. Officials said the release of the prisoners will ease crowded prisons and help isolate the remaining prisoners.
Since early last month, Yemen’s internationally recognized government has ordered provincial governors to take tough measures to prevent the spread of the disease in their provinces.
Yemen has shut down borders, and closed airports, schools and mosques as vital medical supplies have begun arriving in the country. Several quarantine facilities have been established in Aden, Haramout, Shabwa and Mahra, Sanaa, Baydha and other provinces.
But critics have questioned the effectiveness of the measures without cooperation between local authorities across the country.
While Hadramout imposes an overnight curfew, markets and shops in neighboring provinces are still bustling with people.
Other governors appeared reluctant to shut down qat markets that attract thousands of people daily.
Fatehi Ben Lazreq, editor of Aden Al-Ghad newspaper, criticized the lack of regional cooperation.
“Each governor has his own legislation,” he told Arab News on Thursday. “The central government is weak and absent.”
He warned that without tougher regulations and cooperation between health offices across Yemen, the disease could overwhelm the country’s fragile health system.
Despite the arrival of medical supplies in the past two weeks, local health workers have complained about a shortage of protective gear.
Doctors, nurses and health workers at Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla staged a protest outside the facility on Thursday, demanding more personal protective items and claiming that current supplies will run out within two weeks.
The hospital, one of the biggest in Yemen, offers health services to the provinces of Hadramout, Mahra and Shabwa.
Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s manager, told Arab News that he has alerted local health authorities and the World Health Organization office in Yemen to the scarcity of protective equipment at the hospital.
“I am waiting for those items to arrive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yemeni activists have launched a social media campaign to pressure warring factions in Yemen to release prisoners, warning that poor conditions in prisons make them breeding grounds for the virus.
Under #SaveYemeniPrisoners, the activists urged rival Yemeni groups to honor their commitments to release prisoners under the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement.
“With one voice, all human rights activists inside and outside Yemen say release the detainees before it is too late,” Hooria Mashhour, a former human rights minister, said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Mashhour said that she is taking part in the campaign as part of efforts to secure the release of hundreds of Yemeni activists, politicians and journalists detained in the past five years.
“If this epidemic enters Yemen, it will be a catastrophe for all Yemenis. It will severely affect prisoners and detainees who are crammed into dungeons that lack the most basic health standards,” she said.