Resurgence of COVID-19 Cases in Yemen
A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases has been observed in Yemen since mid-February, with the number of new cases reported by the Government of Yemen (GoY) in areas under its control rising from fewer than 10 per week since October 2020 to 21 in the week of 15 February 2021, followed by 112, 175, 327, 507 and 691 new cases respectively in each of the subsequent five weeks. The number of COVID-19 associated deaths has also increased over the same period, from two deaths the week of 15 February to 13, 19, 33, 54 and 95 deaths respectively in each of the weeks that followed.
Since the first COVID-19 case was identified in April 2020, health authorities have reported 4,119 confirmed cases as of 29 March 2021, mostly in GoY areas – nearly half of these within the past five weeks alone. The highest numbers have been reported in Hadramawt (1,896 cases), Aden (774 cases) and Ta’iz (560 cases) governorates. With a high associated fatality rate at hospital ICU-level of 21 per cent – due mainly to late arrival of patients and a lack of experienced human resources and capacities – 864 COVID-19 associated deaths have been recorded, as well as 1,659 recoveries. Official information about the number of cases in areas under the control of Ansar Allah in the north of Yemen remains absent, although informal indications are that cases are rising there too. Health authorities in both the north and south of Yemen have highlighted the need to enhance measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including isolating suspected and confirmed cases as well as initiating epidemiological investigations.
Inadequate testing facilities and official reporting as well as delays in people seeking treatment due to stigma, difficulty in accessing treatment centres and the perceived risks of seeking care continue to inhibit the response to COVID-19. To address this, health partners are working to enhance surveillance for the prevention and early detection of COVID-19, promote behavioral change through risk communication and community engagement (RCCE), expand testing capacity and support COVID-19 case management. WHO and health partners are further scaling up their support by providing essential, lifesaving medicines and medical supplies, to enable case management of patients, including severe cases, while ensuring the protection of health care workers. Efforts are also underway to vaccinate priority groups such as frontline health care workers, older people and people with comorbidities. Yemen will receive 14 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, which will cover the vaccination of some 23 per cent of the population across all governorates. The first 360,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were received on 31 March, together with 13,000 safety boxes and 1.3 million syringes that are critical for the safe and effective roll-out of the vaccination campaign. This first batch is part of 1.9 million doses that Yemen will initially receive throughout 2021.