The first coronavirus case in Syria was officially announced on Sunday evening by Minister of Health Dr. Nizar Yaziji. The patient is a 20-year woman from the United Kingdom who came to Syria via Beirut, Lebanon. She was tested positive and quarantined at her request. In a follow-up statement on Monday, Yaziji confirmed that the woman has shown no symptoms and was responding positively to treatment. She will be discharged once fully recovered and no longer contagious. The announcement led to a wave of anxious comments and warnings from Syrians on social media platforms. The country has been free of the Covid-19 pandemic until yesterday’s case, which makes it a particular shock.
WHO’s Covid-19 Warning for Syria
As the lockdown measures began to take effect throughout the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Syria given the struggling state of the country’s medical sector and its limited capability to cope with such a disaster. After being exhausted by nine years of unabated war and destruction, Syria has experienced a major lack of amenities and depletion of its natural as well as financial resources.
Despite insistence by some Western powers and organizations to politicize the coronavirus issue, Syrian authorities have vehemently shut down the possibility for this. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is reported to have ordered total transparency by health officials regarding the pandemic and any registered cases.
Damascus Takes Strong Measures Against Coronavirus
Last week, a group of some 134 passengers coming from Iran were quarantined in a 4-star hotel next to Damascus International Airport. 34 of them were discharged Monday after testing negative, while the rest, including families, remain quarantined free of charge.
A 6 pm-6 am curfew is due to take effect from Wednesday following a series of new measures imposed by the Syrian government including total stoppage of public transport, inter-city travel and the suspension of paper versions of major national newspapers which are still available online only.
Syria is mobilizing its health teams and facilities, setting up at least two new such centers in every city and large town to handle any sudden outbreak. However, world health and humanitarian bodies underline the fact that the risk is particularly acute in the opposition-held north-west and the Kurdish-controlled north-eastern parts of Syria, which are still outside of Assad’s control. They maintain that there are no testing kits available in those areas.
Millions of Syrians Anxiously Await the End of the Nightmare
Paradoxically, despite nine years of war and massive destruction, areas under the Syrian Government’s control remain safer and better prepared than those provinces under US-backed and Turkish-controlled militias. Once again — just as they have repeatedly done militarily — the masters appear to have left their proxies in the open to fend for themselves during any potential disaster. Such worries call for immediate and serious collaboration between local authorities, councils and masters with the central government in Damascus in order for any preventive measures in those rogue areas to be successfully implemented.
A similar, or even much worse, scenario applies in the northwestern Idlib province, where some 900,000 people continue to live in makeshift accommodation and overcrowded tents. Proper and badly-needed hygiene and social distancing measures are impossible. Turkey bears much of the responsibility for the situation in Idlib, where tens of thousands of extremists and terrorists have been operating under Erdogan’s nose for the past seven years or so.
Ankara has repeatedly failed to keep its obligations under many ceasefire agreements with Russia, the last of which was brokered in Moscow on March 5. Moreover, Turkey has partaken in direct military offensives alongside terrorists and rebel groups against the Syrian Army and its allies in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces last month. The Turkish Army faced a humiliating defeat there, lost dozens of soldiers, tanks and APCs in action, and was saved by the Putin-brokered truce deal.
Human disasters and pandemics break all lines and boundaries: Covid-19 is no exception. Political gauntlets and disagreements must be — at least temporarily — thrown aside as the world joins forces to combat this monstrous pandemic that has wrecked the world with an already catastrophic human and economic toll. Meanwhile, only hospitals, medical doctors, pharmacies and bakeries shall remain open as a lockdown takes effect in Syria, and millions of Syrians wait with anxiety and hope for this nightmare pandemic to end.