AL-MUKALLA: Authorities in the southeastern Yemeni province of Hadramout have scrambled to contain the spread of coronavirus in the port city of Al-Sheher by imposing further measures, government officials and residents said Saturday.
Yemen announced its coronavirus patient zero on Friday in Al-Sheher. Health officials told Arab News that he worked at the city’s seaport and might have contracted the virus after coming into contact with foreign sailors.
The patient developed symptoms after staying for one week at the city’s hospital. Local authorities locked the seaport and gave workers two weeks’ leave. The seaport and neighboring areas are being disinfected.
A curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. was imposed in all cities of the province as health workers recorded the names of those who had come into contact with the patient.
Hadramout Gov. Maj. Gen. Faraj Salmen Al-Bahsani urged residents to comply with the measures and stay indoors as much as they could.
“In this difficult time, our most important weapon is harmony, cooperation and helping each other. We will confront those difficulties and we will win,” the governor said in a televised speech on Friday. “I urge those who met that person to see our health teams for their safety. This will help us contain the pandemic.”
Health authorities believe that the man mixed directly with at least 19 people, including some health workers, and that at least 300 came into contact with his relatives and friends.
“We isolated doctors and health workers who treated the man inside Al-Tayser Hospital in Al-Sheher,” a senior health official told Arab News on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. “We have also increased the number of health teams to trace the people who came into contact with the man.” He added that military vehicles and soldiers were deployed outside the man’s family home and the homes of his relatives after some of them refused to stay indoors.
A lockdown in Yemen was introduced last month but local authorities in Hadramout said they were forced into easing it to allay people’s fears, after receiving information that the measures had caused psychological problems.
“The lockdown caused great panic in the city and some hospitals received patients suffering from psychological problems. So we eased the restrictions during the day,” a health official said.
An awareness campaign was launched in the city to educate people about how to prevent the spread of the disease as teams searched for suspected cases. Cars with loudspeakers roamed around the city telling people about the importance of social distancing, washing hands and other guidelines.
Saeed Al-Moulem, from the Ministry of Health’s office in Al-Sheher, said life had returned to normal on Saturday. People had reopened their businesses as vehicles were seen leaving and crossing into the city.
“Life is normal today,” Al-Moulem told Arab News. “Markets are bustling with people. Yes, the news of the coronavirus case caused a brief shock as people did not expect to find the first case in their city.”
But some residents blasted local authorities for easing the lockdown, expressing concerns that the disease would spread rapidly if people were allowed to move freely.
“I am really surprised to see people moving again,” Ahmad, who preferred to be identified by his first name, told Arab News by phone. “They should have closed the city for 24 hours for two or three days. Everywhere in the world when the first case is detected, the state closes the infected area for several days. Here people are roaming freely as if nothing has happened,” he said, adding that he was forced into isolating one of his relatives at home because he was at the hospital where the first case of coronavirus was discovered.
Unabated fighting The first case of coronavirus in Yemen did not lead to a halt in fighting on raging battlefields in the country’s north as many local and international health officials had demanded.
Last week the Yemeni government welcomed the Arab coalition’s declaration of a truce in Yemen to allow health workers to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Col. Rabia Al-Qurashi, the army’s spokesman in Al-Jawf, said Houthis had launched two simultaneous attacks on two military bases controlled by government forces in the northern province.
“They keep breaching the truce,” he told Arab News. “We pushed back two Houthi attacks on Al-Khanjar and Labenat military bases in Al-Jawf.”