ADEN (Reuters) – Yemen’s Saudi-backed government reported outbreaks of the new coronavirus in three more southern provinces on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases in areas under its control to 65, with 10 deaths.
The Aden-based government’s coronavirus committee said nine new COVID-19 cases had been confirmed, including for the first time in the provinces of Abyan, al-Mahra and Shabwa, where one person died.
Four more infections were reported in Aden, the government’s interim seat, taking the total there to 39.
Yemen is divided between the internationally recognised government based in the south and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement headquartered in the north. The Houthis ousted the government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.
The World Health Organization says it fears COVID-19 could rip through Yemen as the population has some of the lowest levels of immunity to disease compared with other countries. Minimal testing capacity has added to concerns.
The five-year war has shattered Yemen’s health system and left its population weakened by hunger and disease. Around 80% of the population, or 24 million people, rely on humanitarian aid and 10 million are at risk of starvation.
The Aden government has now reported infections in seven provinces under its control, stretching from the Red Sea in the west to the Omani border in the country’s east.
The Houthis have so far reported only two infections, with one death, from the novel coronavirus, both in Sanaa.
The Aden government reported Yemen’s first case on April 10 in a southern port town and there have been almost daily announcements of new cases over the past 12 days.
The United Nations said on Monday the recent sharp rise in cases indicated the virus had been circulating undetected for weeks, increasing the likelihood of a surge in cases.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobnari; Writing by Dahlia Nehme, Ghaida Ghantous and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Gareth Jones and Pravin Char)