Somalia: State minister hospitalized in Mogadishu after contracting Coronavirus
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A state minister who also serves as regional legislator becomes the latest victim of Coronavirus, officials said, as Somalia grapples with the pandemic which is in on an upward trajectory.
Khalif Mumin Tohow, the incumbent HirShabelle state justice minister, is said to have been rushed to a Mogadishu hospital where he's battling for his life, moments after being diagnosed with the virus.
The state's information minister Mohamed Abdirahman said his colleague was "stable but critical" after testing positive, adding that "he's currently undergoing treatment in Mogadishu".
Abdirahman further added that "there is no need to panic. We are hopeful that doctors will ensure his health his stabilized". Tohow is the senior-most Somali official within the country to contract the disease.
However, several prominent Somalis staying abroad have succumbed to the COVID-19. Notable among them are prominent musician Ahmed Ismail Hussein and former Prime Minister Nur Adde, officials said.
Last week, Tohow attended a cabinet meeting in Jowhar town, a further indication that more people could have contracted the disease. Currently, he's undergoing treatment at Martini Hospital in Mogadishu, sources said.
A statement from Somalia's health department on Friday confirmed nine new cases of COVID-19, taking the total national tally to 21. Of the numbers, one death has been recorded within the country and a single recovery, the statement said.
The deceased was identified as a 58-year-old man without traveling history. It's believed to be the first locally transmitted Coronavirus virus case within Somalia, officials added.
But in a swift contrast, Mogadishu mayor Omar Filish sensationally claimed that the numbers of those who may have succumbed is slightly more than the official government records.
He said: "It's imperative that you stay at home. This is not a joke. We've lost many people, some of who are close to me. We are not going to take chances anymore, you must stay at home."
For the better part of Friday, Mogadishu remained under partial lockdown, forcing police officers to confront locals who never adhered to an unprecedented directive from the mayor. Most mosques remained closed.
Already facing unending inter-clan conflicts and Al-Shabaab menace, Somalia has almost a dysfunctional health system, thus forcing most of the tests to be carried out in Nairobi, several miles from the capital, Mogadishu.
To avert further spread, Somalia suspended both domestic and international flights three weeks ago. Learning in both public and Madrassa institutions has been halted, officials said.
A fortnight ago, the country received a consignment of medical supplies from Chinese philanthropist Jack Ma of Alibaba Group, which has since been dispatched to all states including secessionist Somaliland.
Until now, COVID-19 has infected over 1.7 million people globally. Of these cases, 350,000 have recovered while 98,000 have succumbed. The US, Spain, Italy, and China are the worst hit according to statistics released by John Hopkins University.