SANAA/ISTANBUL - Outside the gates of the Old City in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, crowds of people gathered to buy clothes and food last week as they fasted for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.
It was also crowded inside the ancient walled city, where 23-year-old Mohammed Ali Al-Khawlani made clay pots for cooking traditional Yemeni food. Like many people in Sanaa, he was not attempting "social distancing" because of the coronavirus.
"We break our fast each evening in the mosques," Al-Khawlani said. "Or sometimes groups of 15 or 20 people meet in the streets to eat." Yemen has closed airports and schools and restricted some travel by land, but people in Sanaa were still shopping, riding in crowded buses and gathering for religious services as COVID-19 cases spiked to 85 on May 14, more than doubling their number of cases in just five days.
The World Health Organization says a mass outbreak in Yemen would be an unmitigated disaster amid war, famine and floods already plaguing the country.
The Houthi government that runs Yemen's north says Sanaa has had only two cases, but the government that controls Yemen's south has called its regional capital, Aden, "infested" with the virus and accuses the Houthis of under-reporting cases.
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