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Number of COVID-19 Cases in Northern Syria 'Highly Likely' Bigger Than Reported - MSF

Sputnik News

07:44 GMT 25.04.2020

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The international medical NGO, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), believes that it is "highly likely" that the real number of COVID-19 cases in northern Syria is bigger than officially reported, since there is a lack of testing capacities in the region, MSF emergency manager for Syria, Will Turner, said.

"We are very concerned about the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in northern Syria. So far, there are only some positive confirmed cases officially reported in the country by the government. In northern Syria, there has been only one fatality confirmed; however, with the lack of testing capacities in northern Syria, it is highly likely that this does not represent the real situation. In northeast Syria, there is no testing capacity and in northwest Syria, there is some testing capacity, but it is limited", Turner said.

Turner drew attention to the situation in northern Syria's camps, where nearly one million internally displaced people currently reside, and where it is impossible to implement certain coronavirus prevention measures, like social distancing, making them the most vulnerable to the disease outbreak.

"Moreover, more than a million internally displaced people and [Iraqi] refugees live in camps ... Most of the WHO recommendations to contain the disease, such as self-isolating, social distancing and quarantining are impossible in the overcrowded camps with whole families or multiple families living in the same tent with limited sanitation facilities", he concluded.

MSF believes that the overwhelmed health system in Syria, which has been devastated by nine years of conflict, could not bear a massive influx of patients if a large outbreak occurs, and the spread of COVID-19 could quickly become critical if additional support and measures are not put in place.

The Syrian government's health authorities have registered 42 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, with three patients having died and six recovered. The government imposed a curfew across the nation on 25 March. On Thursday, Ahmed Tumah, a Syrian opposition representative in the Astana-format peace talks, revealed that no coronavirus cases had been registered among Syrians in the areas under the control of the opposition forces in the northwestern Idlib province.


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