UN pushes for Yemen cease-fire as virus cases rise

UN pushes for Yemen cease-fire as virus cases rise
Security men wearing protective masks stand on a street in Sanaa in May, 6, 2020, during a 24-hour curfew amid concerns about the spread of the COVID-19. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
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Updated 07 May 2020

UN pushes for Yemen cease-fire as virus cases rise

UN pushes for Yemen cease-fire as virus cases rise
  • Health teams in Aden, Taiz and Hadramout reported a new surge in the number of infections

AL-MUKALLA: Envoys of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to Yemen have renewed their calls for an immediate cease-fire in the country after an alarming surge in the number of coronavirus cases.  

Following a virtual meeting with Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Al-Hadrami, and a spokesperson for the Iran-backed Houthis, Mohammed Abdul Salam, the ambassadors urged both parties to “engage positively” with UN proposals to end hostilities and allow the country’s fragile health system to fight the virus outbreak.

“We told both parties that the best defense against COVID-19 is a permanent cease-fire and a resumption of political dialogue,” Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, said in an online post on Tuesday.

“We urged both parties to engage constructively with the UN texts with a view to adopting the joint declaration and attending the proposed crisis meeting.”  

Local media outlets also reported that the ambassadors voiced strong support for UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths’ diplomatic efforts with the separatist Southern Transitional Council, which seized control of Aden. 

In a recent interview with Arab News, Griffiths said that his latest peace proposal is based initially on a nationwide truce, measures to alleviate economic and humanitarian strife, and a commitment to the resumption of peace talks.

Discussions were expected to lead to a comprehensive peace settlement that would address the country’s thorny issues and prevent it from plunging into war again, he said.

The Saudi-led coalition and the internationally recognized government have declared a truce in Yemen to allow health workers to fight the spread of the disease.

Houthi rebels have demanded an end to airstrikes on their forces, the opening of airports and the withdrawal of Saudi-led coalition forces from the country before they adhere to a cease-fire.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that the army and allied tribesmen pushed back two Houthi attacks in the mountainous Nehim district, near Sanaa and Al-Bayda.

As fighting raged, the Aden-based supreme national emergency committee announced on Wednesday that four new coronavirus cases had been recorded in Lahj and Aden, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in areas under the government’s control to 25, including five deaths.

Health teams in Aden, Taiz and Hadramout reported a new surge in the number of infections as they continued to trace patients’ contacts despite a severe shortage of personal protective equipment. 

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the health ministry’s Hadramout office, said that health workers identified more than 50 people who had direct contact with  three people who tested positive for coronavirus in the province.

Patients’ contacts were asked to stay home and report any health problems to local doctors.

At the same time, authorities in Hadramout reimposed a partial curfew from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., closed land entries to the province, and advised residents to limit social contact.

The emergency committee in the central province of Marib, headed by Gov. Sultan Al-Aradah, stepped up virus curbs, including extra testing at the province’s entry points, the use of rapid response teams, a ban on large gatherings and the shutting down of markets.

Following reports that the Houthis are concealing the number of coronavirus cases, the rebels failed to report any new cases on Wednesday and announced that 10 districts in Sanaa will be placed in 24-hour lockdown.

The first case of coronavirus inside Houthi-controlled territory was announced on Tuesday after a Somali national was found dead in a hotel in Sanaa.