Yemen warns against possible second coronavirus wave

FILE PHOTO: Students attend a class at the beginning of the school year amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Sanaa, Yemen October 18, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

DUBAI (Reuters) - Hospitals should prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19 and take steps to prevent the disease spreading, health authorities in the government-controlled part of Yemen said on Wednesday.

Testing and reporting are limited because of Yemen’s more than six-year war but the number of confirmed new cases has risen in the past 10 days, after levelling off since September to just a couple a day.

Thirty-four new cases were reported on Wednesday by the supreme national emergency committee for the internationally recognised government - the highest daily number since July.

Yemen is divided between the government temporarily based in the south and the Houthi movement that ousted it from power in the capital Sanaa, in the north, in late 2014. A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in early 2015 to return the government to power.

Yemen’s government has reported 2,187 coronavirus infections, including 620 deaths. Houthi authorities, who control most large urban centres, have not provided figures since May when they said there were four cases and one death.

The official figures vastly underestimate the spread of the virus, according to the United Nations and aid agencies, which have been preparing for months for a possible second wave.

The health ministry has called for preventive measures by hospitals and medical centres such as isolating suspected cases, reporting confirmed cases, launching epidemiological investigations and evaluating isolation centres, laboratories and PCR test centres, the supreme committee said on Twitter.

Last year, the United Nations warned that COVID-19 would be a ‘catastrophe’ for Yemen, which is on the brink of famine, with poor water supplies and high rates of malnutrition and diseases such as cholera and dengue.

Yemen expects to receive a first batch of 2.3 million vaccine doses by March through the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, as part of its application for 14 million doses, sufficient for 23% of the population.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Mohamed Ghobari, Editing by Timothy Heritage