Yemen reports first coronavirus case, a chance for peace, says Bishop Hinder
The case in the government-controlled southern province of Hadramawt involves a port employee, who is in stable conditions. Saudi Arabia’s unilateral truce has been in effect since yesterday. For the Vicar of Arabia, COVID-19 might paradoxically have a "positive effect" for the conflict.
Sana'a (AsiaNews) – Yemeni authorities this morning announced the country’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the government-held southern province of Hadramawt, a major oil-producing region.
The news has set off alarm bells and raised concern in a country devastated by five years of civil war with a healthcare system on the verge of collapse.
International humanitarian organisations have sounded the alarm about the disastrous repercussions of a COVID-19 epidemic in the Arab nation, torn by a war since 2015 pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-supported Houthi rebels.
The conflict has provoked the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world". An outbreak of the novel coronavirus would have even greater devastating consequences.
According to early reports, the person affected by the virus is a Yemeni citizen who works in the port of Ash Shihr.
“The individual is stable and receiving medical attention,” an anonymous source said. The authorities have taken the necessary measures but no details have been provided as to how the outbreak is being contained.
Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen), noted that "the present pandemic and its horrifying risks also for Yemen may bring people of all involved parties to reason.” Thus, the “coronavirus could have indirectly a positive effect.”
The Vicar of Arabia's reference is to the decision taken yesterday by Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab coalition in Yemen, to declare a unilateral two-day ceasefire. An estimated 100,000 people have died in five years of conflict.
The ceasefire could be extended; however, Houthi rebels yesterday rejected the offer calling it a “political and media manoeuvre”.
The Saudi truce proposal might nevertheless facilitate UN-sponsored peace talks between the parties to end the hostilities for good.
Officially, the Saudi decision is meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit hailed the ceasefire offer as a “rare opportunity to stop the bloodshed in Yemen.”