COVID-19 fears spread in Syria as gov’t lacks testing capacities amid sanctions

Fears of the COVID-19 outbreak are spreading in Syria as reported daily new infections and fatalities have caused growing concern that the medical and health reality is more serious than the official assessment.

When the first cases emerged in Syria, people didn’t expect a surge in the number of cases, on the ground that the war-torn country has few visitors from abroad.

At the time, few were seen wearing face masks on the streets even as the government had taken preventive measures such as a partial curfew.

Now, fears over the deadly virus have spiked, mainly in the capital Damascus where more have started to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

On social media, obituaries are increasingly being posted for those dying from suspected COVID-19.

The Syrian health ministry said in a statement on Saturday that a total of 780 infections had been recorded in the country since March.

However, the ministry admitted that not all cases could be detected for the lack of means to perform wide-scale testing in the light of the economic sanctions and siege on Syria.

The current epidemic situation requires “extreme caution,” it warned.

Nabough al-Awa, dean of the medical school in the Damascus University, also agreed that the lack of medical capacities amid the sanctions has prevented the Syrian government from performing enough COVID-19 tests.

Al-Awa said all rooms in government-run hospitals are full and new arrivals in critical condition have no immediate access to intensive care units.

Besides, many people with coronavirus symptoms don’t go to hospitals unless their condition worsens, he noted.