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Puntland, Somaliland record first COVID-19 deaths as infections surge in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

GAROWE, Puntland - Semi-autonomous state of Puntland and secessionist Somaliland recorded first COVID-19 deaths on Friday, authorities reported, even as Somalia grapples with the disease, whose number of infections are steadily rising.

In Puntland, the first death of the 11 confirmed positive cases happened in Galdogob district of Mudug region. The victim has been struggling with the disease, several weeks after being confirmed positive, officials said.

Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew to help curb the spread of the disease, besides enforcing regulations such as social distancing, avoiding handshakes, and mass public gatherings.

The state had also suspended domestic flights within Garowe, the regional administrative capital almost a month ago. School learning activities have also been temporarily suspended to avert the possible spread of the virus, officials added.

In Somaliland, a state which declared self-independence in 1991 following a deadly civil war in Somalia, health ministry confirmed the first death related to the virus. The victim, officials said, was a local Borama businessman without travel history.

“We have confirmed one person who died of Coronavirus. It took place in Borama town, we condole with the family," Omar Ali Abdullahi, the health minister said, adding that the number of infections had reached nine.

The state recorded first positive cases on March. 31, which involved a Chinese national in Berbera and a citizen who had traveled from the United Kingdom. So far, the northern breakaway region has recorded three recoveries, Omar added.

As of Thursday, Somalia had registered 601 positive cases. Of this number, 31 people have recovered while 28 have since died, Dr. Fawziya Abikar, the country's health minister confirmed in a press conference.

Several international partners have chipped in to help the country manage the pandemic. Among those which have already channeled their donations include Turkey, UAE, the US, and the United Nations.

But Turkey's commitment to helping Somalia signifies a blossoming relationship between Mogadishu and Ankara, with the European nation dispatching the second consignment of medical supplies on Friday to Somalia.

"Today, by instructions of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a cargo load of medical supplies, masks, overalls, test kits, and other equipment is going to Somalia to help them against COVID-19. Turkey stands together with Somalia and Africa against all calamities," said Ibrahim Kalin, a top official in Ankara.

It was back in 2011 when President Erdoğan took his first trip to Somalia where tens of thousands of people had died because of the famine. The visit drew the world’s attention to the forsaken country of Somalia and Erdoğan became the hope of Somali people.

The medical consignment, including the support from Chinese philanthropist Jack Ma, has been distributed equally among all states in Somalia. But to date, almost 95 percent of the total infections originate from Mogadishu.

Coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, almost grounding economic activities globally. So far, over 3 million people have been infected, leaving 230,000 dead. A million people have recovered worldwide according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.