Yemen 'undercounting' coronavirus cases as illness spreads across the war-torn region

Yemen 'undercounting' coronavirus cases as illness spreads across the war-torn region
As Covid-19 courses through Yemen, some sources claim the government is undercounting cases.
3 min read
Yemen's coronavirus cases surges [Getty]

Coronavirus is spreading fast in Yemen, and reports are that there are far more cases and deaths than authorities are reporting, worrying experts as the war-torn country cracks under the pressure.

The Saudi-backed government in the South and the Iran-aligned Houthis in the north have publicly announced a total of 67 cases and 11 deaths, with two of those infections and one of the deaths reported by the latter, both in the capital Sanaa.

There is rampant undercounting in both the north and the south of the country, which could make it difficult to track the spread of the disease, four sources close to the matter told the Reuters news agency.

The sources, who have access to information from hospitals said the Houthi health authorities had not shared additional test results with the World Health Organisation (WHO) for at least 50 additional patients with Covid-19 symptoms at Kuwait hospital in Sanaa.

A further two sources said they were aware of at least 30 suspected coronavirus cases admitted to Sheikh Zayed hospital, also in Sanaa, and claimed the test results were not shared.

“Houthi authorities do not share the results of the tests with doctors and with the WHO when the results are positive,” one of the sources told Reuters.

Asked by the agency whether it was concerned about a coronavirus outbreak going unreported in Houthi-held areas, the WHO said its role was to “actively advise, influence and inform” discussions on case declaration and reporting, which it said it had been doing for weeks.

“Given the testing capacity in country, which is very limited, tests are being done on persons who meet the criteria or case definition and exposure history. We would not, and frankly no country would, be able to test everyone who was sick or experiencing symptoms,” it said in a statement.

It said it was “operating under the assumption that full blown transmission is now occurring” across Yemen and that it was increasing “community engagement and awareness activities.”

Explosion of cases

Earlier this month authorities in Houthi-held northern Yemen reported their first case of the novel coronavirus, a Somali national who was found dead in a Sanaa hotel.

“We received a report about a situation in a hotel (in the capital Sanaa) on Sunday and epidemiological investigation teams went there immediately, where the affected person had died,” Houthi health minister Taha al-Mutawakkil told Al Masirah TV at the time.

The deceased victim had underlying liver and kidney problems, the minister added.

The UN warned on Monday that a shocking 16 million people are at risk of contracting the deadly virus, dealing a blow to what it has already described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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