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Somalia: Somaliland records first positive cases of COVID-19 victims

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

HARGEISA, Somalia - Two people have recorded positive for COVID-19 in the secessionist state of Somaliland, authorities confirmed on Tuesday, amid escalating infections globally, which have almost grounded activities.

Health officials said two individuals tested positive for the deadly virus; the first being a Chinese national in the city of Berbera, and a local resident who had recently visited Britain.

Omar Ali Abdullahi, the minister for health in the northern breakaway region, said the two individuals are "stable" and that efforts to trace those who may have come into contact with them had resumed.

"We have confirmed two cases, one of a Chinese national and a local," Omar told reporters. "They are all in a stable condition but we are also locating their contacts to avert further spread."

Somaliland declared it's independence in 1991 after a bloody civil war that occasioned to an "atrocity", during the reign of Siad Barre. But the UN is yet to recognize it as a sovereign state.

The two cases bring the total to five across Somalia since Mogadishu had already confirmed three cases. On Monday, one patient was recovered fully from the virus after weeks of isolation and treatment, officials said.

With almost a dysfunctional health system, authorities both in Somaliland and Somalia have kick-started public awareness campaigns to confront the disease, with the washing of hands and keeping social distance being key among them.

Vehicles mounted with loudspeakers have circulated in Mogadishu with basic information about the virus. The government has distributed leaflets advising people to wash their hands and practice social distancing, VOA reported.

Already, the FGS has suspended both domestic and international flights indefinitely, banned mass gatherings besides halting learning activities in the country, as part of precautionary measures to avert further spread.

Semi-autonomous Puntland state on Sunday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew, which is also viewed as a security measure to tackle the pandemic, that has since leftover 40,000 dead worldwide.

All tests are being done in Nairobi, due to the lack of ISO lab in Somalia. A total of 31 samples had been taken by Tuesday, with 18 returning negative, Rahman Malik, the WHO representative, said.

“We have not yet seen any locally transmitted cases, but this situation may change in the future,” Malik added while underscoring the commitment of the organization in helping Somalia.

James Swan, the United States special envoy to Mogadishu, pledged "shoulder to shoulder" support for Somalia throughout the pandemic, adding that the UN will also promote social-economic activities due to COVID-19 scare.

Besides banning mass public gatherings and meetings, authorities also suspended religious gatherings including learning at Madrassa, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage even the economically stable nations.

“We must all unite to prevent the spread of the virus. We need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable in our communities, including internally displaced people, the infirm and the elderly," added Mr. Swan.

Somaliland received a consignment of medical supplies last week which was donated by Chinese billionaire philanthropist Jack Ma of Alibaba Group, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire confirmed.

The consignment included face masks, testing kits and protective gear which are fundamental in the fight against the disease. The kits were also dispatched in all 54 African nations, Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy, who was in charge, said.

Apart from the surging deaths, over 700,000 people have contracted the virus which first emanated from China. Of those, 140,000 have recovered. Italy, Spain and the US lead in the global death toll respectively, WHO said.


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