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Thursday, May 21, 2020, 22:55
MSF: Coronavirus catastrophe unfolding in south Yemen
By Agencies
Thursday, May 21, 2020, 22:55 By Agencies

A man walks while clad in mask due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic along an alley at an open-air market in Yemen's capital Sanaa on May 20, 2020, as Muslims shop ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

ANKARA / SYDENY / TOKYO / DUBAI / KUALA LUMPUR - The main coronavirus treatment centre in southern Yemen has recorded at least 68 deaths in just over two weeks, the medical charity running the site said on Thursday, more than double the toll announced by Yemeni authorities so far.

The spokesperson for the Yemeni government coronavirus committee in Aden, the south’s main city and port, was not immediately available for comment

The spokesperson for the Yemeni government coronavirus committee in Aden, the south’s main city and port, was not immediately available for comment.

War-ravaged Yemen, whose malnourished population has among the world’s lowest immunity levels to disease, is divided between the Saudi-backed government based in Aden and its foe, the Iran-aligned Houthi group, in the north.

The Aden-based government has since April 10 announced 180 infections with 30 deaths in areas it holds while the Houthis, who control most large population centres, have reported only four cases with one death in the capital Sanaa.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the dedicated COVID-19 centre in Aden that serves the entire south admitted 173 patients from April 30 to May 17, at least 68 of whom died, suggesting “a wider catastrophe unfolding in the city”.

The Yemeni authorities have taken several measures to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, including imposing a partial overnight curfew in Aden and other main cities.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni Houthi rebel-controlled authorities announced on Wednesday the closure of all parks under their control during Eid al-Fitr holiday as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported.

Earlier, the Houthi authorities declared a total number of four infections in northern Yemen, including one death. 

Malaysia

Malaysia reported 35 new coronavirus cases at an immigration detention centre on Thursday, after authorities rounded up undocumented migrants this month in areas under lockdown.

The United Nations has called on Malaysia to stop the crackdown, which it said has spread fear among migrant communities in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, which has so far reported 7,059 cases, with 114 deaths.

Malaysian authorities have detained more than 1,800 migrants in at least two raids as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, raising concerns they could instead raise infection risks in overcrowded detention centres.

The health ministry said on Thursday it had 35 confirmed cases at the Bukit Jalil immigration detention centre, located in the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, out of 645 people who were being held in one block at the centre.

“The source of infection is still under investigation ... we need to investigate in detail before making any comments,” the ministry’s Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah told a daily news conference broadcast live on national television.

Noor Hisham said the 35 positive cases include 17 people from Myanmar, 15 from India and one each from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Egypt.

They were detained before Malaysia imposed movement and business curbs on March 18, aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic, and did not have any interaction with others who were detained after that, Noor Hisham said.

People wait to cross an intersection in the Shimbashi district in Tokyo, Japan, on May 14, 2020. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

Japan

Japan may lift the state of emergency in Tokyo as early as next week if new coronavirus infections remain low, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday, raising hopes that the world’s third-largest economy may soon start recovering from recession.

After ending its state of emergency in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo following a drop in the number of infections, Abe said that Tokyo and four other prefectures including the northern island of Hokkaido will stay under restrictions for now.

But a week after a stay-at-home recommendations were lifted for much of the country, Abe said that Japan’s capital city and its surrounding prefectures were showing promising signs that the rate of infections is coming under control.

Unlike many other countries, Japan has not suffered an explosive surge in infections, with 16,433 confirmed cases including 784 deaths as of Thursday morning, according to public broadcaster NHK.

But the outbreak and restrictions on activity and business under the state of emergency have already tipped the economy into recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, like other world leaders, has been striving to balance the need to contain the pathogen’s spread with the need to keep the economy running.

So far, the western prefectures of Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo are averaging at 0.09 infections per 100,000 people, in contrast with 0.59 for Tokyo and surrounding areas and 0.69 for the northern island of Hokkaido, where the emergency also remains intact.

Australia

Australian state and territory leaders bickered on Thursday over whether to reopen internal borders, a major step to rejuvenating the country’s A$80 billion (US$50 billion) domestic tourism industry, as part of measures to ease coronavirus restrictions.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he wants the bulk of all social distancing restrictions removed by July under a three-step plan. 

Hoever, the implementation of the federal plan is down to the leaders of individual state and territories, who disagree on how safe it is to allow unrestricted movement throughout the country.

Australia has reported just over 7,000 COVID-19 infections, including 100 deaths, well below figures reported by other developed countries.

READ MORE: S'pore govt says three quarters of economy to resume work June 2

Bangladesh

Bangladesh saw the highest single-day hike of 22 deaths of COVID-19 patients Thursday.

Nasima Sultana, a senior health ministry official, told an online media briefing in Dhaka that "22 COVID-19 deaths including 19 men and three women were confirmed in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of fatalities in the country since March 18 to 408."

According to the official, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 28,511, with the biggest daily rise of 1,773 cases reported in the last 24 hours as of 8:00 a.m. local time on Thursday.

India

India will allow airlines to begin some domestic flights from May 25, its civil aviation minister said on Wednesday, two months after the country imposed a ban on air travel as it went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Domestic civil aviation operations will recommence in a calibrated manner from Monday,” the minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, said on Twitter.

Puri said all airports and airlines are being informed to be ready for operations from May 25 and that the ministry would issue guidelines for passenger movement separately.

India's federal health ministry Thursday morning reported 132 more deaths and 5,609 new COVID-19 cases since Wednesday, taking the number of deaths to 3,435 and total cases to 112,359.

Indonesia

Thousands of Indonesians made a late dash to leave Jakarta for their hometowns this week, even as authorities sought to stem the traditional mass exodus at the end of the Muslim fasting month to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

About 60 flights a day in Jakarta carrying 4,000 passengers are serving domestic destinations ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holidays starting this weekend, said Angkasa Pura, the country’s main airport operator.

Indonesia reported on Thursday its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, bringing the total confirmed number to 20,162 in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Indonesia confirmed 973 new infections and 36 new deaths, taking the official number of fatalities to 1,278, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said.

Iraq

The Iraqi Health Ministry on Wednesday recorded 113 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 3,724 in the country.

The 113 cases were recorded after 5,947 test kits were used across the country during the past 24 hours, and a total of 163,609 tests since the outbreak of the disease, the ministry said in a statement.

So far, up to 134 people have died from the disease in Iraq, while 2,438 have recovered, it added.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqi health authorities kicked off a plan to impose curfew on Baghdad's districts of Sadr City, Habibiyah, Kamaliyah, Hurriyah, Shula and Ameriyah, which witnessed highest numbers of COVID-19 cases during the past few days.

Iran

Iran’s top health official appealed to Iranians to avoid travelling during the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday later this month to avoid the risk of a new surge of coronavirus infections, state TV reported on Thursday.

“I am urging you not to travel during the Eid. Definitely, such trips mean new cases of infection...People should not travel to and from those high-risk red areas,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki was quoted by state television as saying.

Confirmed cases in Iran of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose by 2,346 to 126,949 on Wednesday, the health ministry said. The death toll is 7,183, the highest in the Middle East region.

Among the confirmed, around 10,000 were health workers, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted the deputy health minister as saying on Thursday.

Israel

Israel's Ministry of Health reported six new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the tally to 16,665 in the country.

This marks the lowest daily increase since March 7, when only four new cases were recorded. The number of victims rose from 278 to 279. 

Jordan

A total lockdown will be imposed during Eid al-Fitr in Jordan amid an unprecedented increase in the number of coronavirus cases over the past few days, Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh said Wednesday.

The lockdown, imposed to limit public gatherings during the Muslim holiday, will start on Thursday midnight until Sunday, the minister said in a statement.

Jordan reported 23 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, of which seven were from the same family in the capital Amman, bringing the total number in the country to 672.

ALSO READ: Australia opens up domestic life further to boost economy

Kuwait

Kuwait reported 804 new cases, bringing the country's total number of infections to 17,568, of whom 124 have died and 4,885 recovered.

Kyrgyzstan 

Kyrgyzstan confirmed 43 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising its total number of infections to 1,313, with 14 deaths.

Among the newly infected, four are medical workers, bringing the total number of medical workers diagnosed with COVID-19 to 270, 233 of whom have recovered, Deputy Health Minister Nurbolot Usenbaev told a daily briefing.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, the number of COVID-19 infections increased by seven to 961, while the death toll remained unchanged at 26.

An employee of a bakery waits for customers in the nearly deserted Hayat mall in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after the lockdown measures due to the novel coronavirus were partially eased by the authorities, on May 14, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

New Zealand

Bars and pubs opened in New Zealand for the first time in months on Thursday, as restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus were eased further and the government looked to revive economic activity.

Venues serving alcohol have remained closed across the country as the government said they posed additional risks, despite most other businesses re-opening last week.

The hospitality and tourism sectors were worst hit by the pandemic, as New Zealand enforced some of the tightest social restrictions in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures helped limit infections to just over 1,500 people and 21 deaths, far fewer than many other countries.

Nepal

Nepal reported a new death from COVID-19 on Thursday as the number of deaths from the disease in the Himalayan country has risen to three.

Earlier on May 18, a 25-year-old man from Banke district in Province 5 died of the disease. On May 17, the Nepali government confirmed the first death from the disease after a 29-year-old woman died after being infected with the virus.

As of Thursday morning, the Nepali government has confirmed 444 cases of COVID-19. 

Oman

The Omani Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday 372 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 6,043.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, all new cases, including 152 Omanis, are related to community contact.

Pakistan

COVID-19 infections in Pakistan trended higher in recent days and were approaching 50,000, official data showed, with total deaths crossing 1,000, as the government remained unsure over the consequences of its decision to end the nation’s lockdown.

The timing of the restart presents a challenge for authorities with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, due to fall on Sunday or Monday, subject to the sighting of the new moon - meaning tens of thousands of people will be looking to board trains for their home towns.

The death toll of COVID-19 has risen to 1,017 with 48,091 confirmed cases in Pakistan, according to data updated by the country's health ministry Thursday morning. A total of 2,193 new cases and 32 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the statistics revealed.

Palestine

The spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of health in Gaza said on Wednesday night that seven new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the Gaza Strip.

Ashraf al-Qedra told a news briefing held in Gaza city that the new cases are of Palestinians that had returned from Egypt last week through Rafah crossing point on the borders with the Gaza Strip.

Al-Qedra said that the total number of cases infected with the deadly virus has reached 30 cases since March 5, adding that 16 of them had recovered and the other 14 are receiving medical treatment in stable conditions.

Qatar

In Qatar, 1,491 new cases of coronavirus infections were detected, bringing the total number to 37,097, of whom 16 have died and 6,600 recovered.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's COVID-19 cases on Wednesday exceeded 60,000 with nearly 2,700 new infections, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saudi Health Ministry spokesperson Mohammed Al-Abdulaali told the daily press briefing that the kingdom reported 2,691 new cases, raising the overall infections to 62,545.

The death toll of the virus rose to 339, with 10 new fatalities while the tally of recoveries in the country rose by 1,844 to 33,478.

Health workers enter the private al-Kubi hospital in Yemen's southern coastal city of Aden on May 17, 2020, amid fears that coronavirus is spreading unhindered in the Yemeni city. (PHOTO / AFP)

Singapore 

Singapore’s health ministry said on Thursday it confirmed another 448 coronavirus cases, taking the city-state’s tally of infections to 29,812.

Most of the newly reported cases are from migrant-worker dormitories, the health ministry said.

Singapore reported one more death, a citizen of the city-state, taking the virus-related death toll to 23.

South Korea

Nightclub-related coronavirus cases increase to 201 as of midnight from 196 at noon yesterday, Yoon Tae-ho, director-general for public health policy at the health ministry, said in a briefing.

South Korea reported 12 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of 0:00 am Thursday local time, raising the total number of infections to 11,122.

Thailand

Thailand’s National Security Council will propose an extension of a state of emergency through June 30, the panel’s Secretary-General Somsak Rungsita told reporters. 

The NSC will propose the extension at the COVID-19 meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on Friday.

The Philippines

The Philippine health department on Thursday reported that 213 more people have contracted the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 13,434.

In a daily bulletin, the Department of Health (DOH) said 68 more patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the number of recoveries to 3,000. It added that four more patients have died from the COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 846.

Turkey

The daily new COVID-19 cases fell under 1,000 on Wednesday for the first time since March 25, indicating Turkey's success in dealing with the novel coronavirus, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Koca on Wednesday reported 972 new COVID-19 cases and 23 more deaths in the country. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases has surged to 152,587, while the death toll climbed to 4,222, the minister tweeted.

Turkey imposes curfews at the weekends and even extends the lockdown days to national holidays. Accordingly, the country will have a four-day curfew on May 23-26 during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

With a decreasing trend in the number of daily cases and fewer deaths, Turkey recently started gradual normalization with few hours of curfew relaxation and the reopening of shopping malls and barbershops.

UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday announced 941 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number in the country to 26,004.

UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement the new cases of many nationalities are all in a stable condition and receiving medical treatment.

It also confirmed six more deaths, pushing the country's death toll of the pandemic to 233.

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