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Somalia: Puntland minister tests positive for coronavirus

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

GAROWE, Puntland - A minister within Puntland has been infected with the Coronavirus, he said in a press conference, amid reports that a number of his colleagues might have also contracted the virus.

Over the weekend, reports indicated that a couple of ministers in President Said Abdullahi Deni's government and several legislators had tested positive for COVID-19, although authorities are yet to formally issue a corroborative statement.

But Abdullahi Abdi Hirsi, Puntland minister for commerce said he had tested positive for COVID-19, adding that he had initially shown mild symptoms for the virus, which continues to wreak havoc globally.

Hirsi becomes the first senior official from the northern Federal state of Somalia announces to contract the disease, with local numbers surging on a daily basis, raising anxiety over the next course of action to curb the further spread.

"I have tested positive for Coronavirus after showing mild symptoms. I am now under the care of the medics. It's my hope that I'll recover soon," he said. "We must continue to battle this monster as a team; it doesn't spare anyone regardless of social status."

As of Sunday, the state, which is considered as the most stable and secure region in the restless war-torn nation, had registered a whopping 88 positive cases of COVID-19. Of these numbers, four have since died while one managed to recover, local health officials said.

Puntland's numbers are the highest in the national tally after the Banadir region, which has registered hundreds of cases. The northern breakaway region of Somaliland is third in terms of infections, which have continued to escalate in recent weeks.

Throughout Somalia, 1,054 people have been confirmed positive for COVID-19. Of these cases, the health department said on Sunday, 118 have been given a clean bill of health while 51 have since succumbed.

Already, the disease has claimed the lives of dignitaries of Somali origin within and outside the country. Abdikani Mohamed Wa'ays, the immediate Somali envoy to Egypt and the Arab League of Nations died in Kuwait on Sunday.

Last month, Khalif Mumin Tohow, a regional minister for justice in HirShabelle state, died in Martini Hospital, the only known isolation, and treatment facility for COVID-19 in Mogadishu. He had tested positive for Coronavirus.

Others include former Prime Minister Nur Adde, who died in London last month, and legendary musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein, who also spent most of his adult life in the United Kingdom. Somalis in the Diaspora are the worst hit.

The number of deaths COVID-19 deaths in Somalia is highest regionally, closely followed by Kenya, whose death toll hit 30 according to the ministry of health. A number of international players among them Turkey government have consolidated efforts to help the country.

The minister's infection comes amid concerns that the office of Somali Prime Minister had assumed all roles regarding the ongoing mission to combat the pandemic, slightly edging out the ministry of health under Dr. Fawziya Abikar.

But in a statement on Friday, the department dismissed the assertions, arguing that it has continued to execute it's mandated, adding that it was keen to mitigate the risks using all the available limited means.

"Minister of Health thanks the Somali PM for his unparalleled commitment to this cause as he continues to lead from the front; his support during this crisis has been immeasurable. We would hope that all Somalis rally together to face this pandemic in whatever capacity," added the statement.

Among others, Puntland had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew as an immediate measure to combat the spread of the virus. Also, the health department has heightened campaigns to sensitize residents about the pandemic.

Further, social distancing and shaking of hands have been given priority besides banning of domestic flights to the region. The state has been receiving some of the medical supplies from Mogadishu which were sanctioned by international partners.


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