Coronavirus mars Eid celebrations in Yemen

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Some Sanaa residents wear masks at an open-air market on May 20th, while others remain without. The Houthis have been criticised for under-reporting coronavirus infections in the city and failing to make precautionary measures mandatory. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Yemenis in some provinces spent the Eid al-Fitr holiday under total or partial curfew to curb the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), while other provinces faced criticism for not doing more to keep people home.

Yemen's supreme emergency committee for combatting COVID-19 on Monday (May 25th) reported the number of confirmed cases in provinces under government control had risen to 233, including 44 deaths.

The Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) reported just four cases in areas under their control, but have been accused of concealing the extent of the spread.

The Houthis urged people to stay at home during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, and to refrain from performing Eid prayers at mosques. They also urged people not to visit family and relatives on the first day of Eid, as is customary.

“Some people sent messages to their families, saying they could not receive them on the first day of Eid because of the coronavirus,” Sanaa resident Marawan Sallam told Al-Mashareq.

“This came after many deaths were reported in different neighbourhoods," he said, noting that some relatives he generally visits told him they could not receive guests, while others contacted him by phone to exchange good wishes.

“I never thought I would perform Eid prayers at home and not at the mosque," he said, adding that not making the customary visits also was unusual for him.

Local authorities in Sanaa meanwhile announced that public parks and gardens would remain closed indefinitely, and warned people not to leave home except when necessary, and to wear masks and hand gloves when they did.

Some doctors and officials criticised the Houthis for issuing a voluntary stay-at-home order only, insisting that these instructions must be enforced.

'Funerals do not stop'

“Funerals in most neighbourhoods" of Sanaa "do not stop these days", Dr. Moetaz al-Maqtery told Al-Mashareq.

In most cases, the cause of death is not reported, he said, noting that "some relatives confirm the deceased had symptoms similar to those of coronavirus".

“Information available to my colleagues at the health quarantine centres in Sanaa indicate the virus has spread in Sanaa and other areas controlled by Houthis,” he said.

“There is no logical reason for not releasing the real numbers, and for not imposing precautionary measures, instead of urging citizens to voluntarily abide by them,” he said.

Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population Nasser Baum said there had been several deaths in Sanaa medical facilities that had not been announced.

He urged the Houthis to unify efforts and share information that would ensure the virus is contained and patients are assisted.

In a statement to local media, Baum urged governors to abide by precautionary measures and not to allow people to travel between cities and rural areas, “otherwise, the virus will further spread and reach new areas".

Precautionary measures

In government-controlled provinces, precautionary measures are being enforced, officials said.

Minister of Endowments and Guidance Ahmed Attiyah urged people to perform Eid prayers at home, because assemblies at mosques might spread the virus.

Hadramaut governor Maj. Gen. Faraj al-Bahsani declared a full curfew during Eid; while al-Mahrah governor Mohammed Ali Yasser declared a full curfew on the first and second days of Eid.

“Police vehicles used loudspeakers to urge citizens to stay at home on Eid, warning that those who go out for any reason will spend the Eid in prison,” Seiyun resident Saeed Mabrouk told Al-Mashareq.

“The main activities of Eid are performing prayers at mosque, visiting family, and going out to public areas,” he said. “But all of these activities have disappeared, because of coronavirus.”

In Marib, local authorities enforced a partial curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice, and barred entrance to visitors coming from Sanaa and Aden, where the virus has been spreading.

They also continued to ban assemblies, including Eid prayers, to close mosques, wedding halls, public parks and gardens, and to monitor the compliance of malls and markets with the precautionary measures and disinfection.

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