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Syrian Arab Republic: COVID-19 Update No. 15 - 24 July 2020

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Syria
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OCHA
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This report is produced by OCHA Syria in Damascus in collaboration with WHO Syria and Damascus-based humanitarian partners, and does not reflect cross-border operations. The next report will be issued on or around 8 August 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Number of people confirmed by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to have COVID-19: 608 (35 fatalities, 184 recovered).

• Areas of concern: Densely populated areas, notably Damascus/Rural Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, and those living in camps and informal settlements in NES, collective shelters throughout the country, as well as other areas including Deir-Ez-Zor, and where hostilities may be ongoing making sample collection more challenging.

• Populations of concern: All groups are susceptible. However, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk; as are vulnerable IDP and refugee populations and healthcare workers with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

• Of the cases announced to date by the MoH, 44 are reported to be healthcare workers, the majority in Damascus.

• As of 24 July, the MoH has reported approximately 12,416 tests have been performed in laboratories in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Lattakia governorates.

• Socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, notably in food security and livelihoods, are likely to exacerbate existing substantial humanitarian needs across the country.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The global situation remains highly fluid. However, at the time of writing, 15,257,287 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID19, including 628,240 deaths (CFR=4.1 per cent) had been reported globally. The United States has the most confirmed cases (3,938,094) and the most deaths to date (142,533). In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, more than 1,439,372 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including 36,470 deaths, around 41 per cent of which occurred in Iran.

In Syria, 608 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported by the MoH to date: one case in Tartous; seven in Dar’a; nine in As-Sweida; nine in Homs; ten in Hama; 29 in Lattakia; 30 in Aleppo; 34 in Quneitra; 136 in Rural Damascus; 319 in Damascus, and 24 cases where the location had yet been announced. In total, 214 new cases have been announced since the last report. The MoH has also announced 35 fatalities – an increase of 19 since the last report – and 184 recoveries. Of the cases, 104 cases were announced as imported and 203 as a secondary case (exposure/contact with a known case).

According to available MoH data, nearly 28 per cent of cases presented as severe/critical requiring hospitalization, including, in some cases, oxygenation or mechanical ventilation in ICU units.

In addition, of particular concern is that according to the MoH, 44 healthcare workers (eight per cent of reported cases) have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 26 since the last report. This includes 34 in Damascus, six in Rural Damascus, two in Aleppo, and one each in Quneitra and As-Sweida. This highlights the particular risks faced by healthcare workers; and underscores – given Syria’s fragile healthcare system with already insufficient numbers of qualified healthcare personnel – the potential for its overstretched healthcare capacity to be further compromised.

Since the last update, humanitarian actors have also received unverified reports concerning additional possible cases, and information indicating that in some areas, existing healthcare facilities have been unable to absorb all suspected cases and/or healthcare facilities are suspending surgeries or adapting wards to accommodate increased numbers of COVID-19 patients. While the UN is not in a position to verify this information; it is of note that official cases confirmed by the MoH have increased more than 100 per cent in July, and the source of 277 cases to date remains unknown, potentially indicating that community transmission is now widespread. Globally, even the most advanced healthcare systems have been quickly overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. On 20 July, the Minister of Health stated the current increase in COVID-19 cases could evolve into a wider outbreak and emphasized individuals should adhere to preventive measures and seek early treatment.

On 16 April, WHO EMRO shared information indicating a man from Al-Hasakeh City who had been admitted to Qamishli National Hospital on 27 March had sadly died on 2 April. A COVID-19 test was later reported as positive. Subsequently, authorities in NES in late April and early May announced an additional five cases (since recovered) through their own laboratory capacity. On 23 July, authorities in NES announced a further four in Qamishli (3) and Al-Hasakeh city (1); the first announced cases in NES in over two months. According to reports the new cases have not had contact with each other; all are further reported to have underlying health conditions and are self-isolating in their homes; with immediate family members and recent contacts also in quarantine. Contact tracing is reported to be ongoing.

As of 24 July, the MoH report around 12,416 tests have been conducted by the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) in Damascus and the public health laboratories in Aleppo, Lattakia and Homs. The enhancement of laboratory and case investigation capacity across Syria, including in NES, remains a priority, as does the timely communication of all information relevant to the safeguarding of public health.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.