Yemen rebels report first coronavirus death in capital

Yemen’s Huthi rebels Tuesday announced the first coronavirus death in the capital Sanaa, which they control, stoking new fears of a major outbreak in the war-torn country.

Yemen’s healthcare system has been blighted by years of conflict that has driven millions from their homes and plunged the country into what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Huthis’ health minister, Taha al-Mutawakel, told a news conference the case involved a man from Somalia who was found dead in a hotel on Sunday and posthumously tested positive for the virus.

It is the first known infection in rebel-controlled territory.

The hotel was disinfected and all those who had come in contact with the man were placed in quarantine, he said without giving further details.

The death brings the number of people who have died from the virus in Yemen to four and the total number of confirmed cases to 22.

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of three people in areas controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognised government, where 21 cases have been reported.

Aid organisations have warned that an outbreak could have dire consequences after six years of civil war in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries.

The conflict between government forces and the Iran-backed Huthis escalated in March 2015, when a Saudi-led military coalition intervened against the rebels after they overran much of the country.

The war has left tens of thousands of people dead, most of them civilians, and the UN says around 24 million Yemenis — more than two thirds of the population — rely on some form of aid. (AFP)