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.
• Number of people confirmed by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to have COVID-19: 7,797 (413 fatalities, 3,500 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 are susceptible. However, the elderly; people with underlying health conditions; vulnerable IDPs and refugees; and healthcare workers with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) are at greater risk.
• Of the cases announced by the MoH, 239 are reported to be healthcare workers, largely in Damascus.
• As of 21 November, the MoH has reported approximately 64,000 tests have been performed in laboratories in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia and Rural Damascus governorates, with a current average of 550 tests per day.
• Socio-economic impacts are exacerbating the already considerable humanitarian needs across the country.
The global situation remains highly fluid. However, at the time of writing, 61,869,330 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID19, including 1,448,856 deaths (CFR=2.3 per cent) had been reported globally. The United States has the most confirmed cases (12,939,666) and the most deaths to date (262,736). In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, more than 4,045,906 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including 102,160 deaths.
In Syria, 7,797 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported by the MoH to date: 7 in Ar-Raqqa; 22 in Deir-Ez-Zor; 35 in Al-Hasakeh; 107 in Quneitra; 354 in Hama; 391 in Tartous; 399 in As-Sweida; 400 in Dar’a; 783 in Lattakia; 880 in Rural Damascus; 1,222 in Homs; 1,422 in Aleppo; and 1,775 in Damascus. In total, 2,217 new cases have been announced since the last report on 28 October. The MoH has also announced 413 fatalities, an increase of 135, in addition to 3,500 recoveries; the CFR is approximately 4.9 per cent.
Highlighting the particular risks faced by healthcare workers, according to the MoH, 239 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, including 28 in November. Of particular concern, 12 healthcare workers are reported to have died, most recently on 2 November. The ongoing increase in affected healthcare workers underscores – given Syria’s fragile healthcare system with already insufficient numbers of qualified personnel – the potential for its overstretched healthcare capacity to be further compromised. Humanitarian actors continue to receive reports that healthcare workers in some areas do not have sufficient PPE. WHO continues to lead efforts to support increased distribution of PPE where needed to ensure protection of healthcare workers already operating under very challenging circumstances.
Reported cases in schools have also sharply increased in recent weeks, with 828 cases reported to date, more than double than as of 1 November (399 cases). Of these, 420 were reported to be teachers and other staff, with the highest cases in Rural Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. These cases also highlight the challenges of preventing transmission in schools, particularly given the overall country context of overcrowded classrooms, insufficient qualified teaching personnel, and poor/damaged infrastructure. Both WHO and UNICEF, along with Health and Education sector partners, continue to further strengthen COVID-19 preventive actions in schools, including through teacher and school health worker trainings, PPE distributions, and infection prevention and control (IPC) measures including increased water trucking and soap distributions.
Even while the current official numbers remain relatively low, it is clear in past months the epidemiological situation in Syria rapidly evolved and all factors – including that the vast majority of announced cases have not been linked to exposure/contact with a known case – point to widespread community transmission. This month of November represents the peak of official numbers reported in a single month (2,069; followed by 2,008 cases reported in August).
As earlier reported, humanitarian actors have received unverified reports concerning additional possible cases, in addition to other information which indicated in some areas, healthcare facilities, particularly in July and August but also more recently in November, were unable to absorb all suspected cases and/or are suspending surgeries or adapting wards to accommodate increased COVID-19 patients. While the UN is not in a position to verify or directly link such reports to COVID19, other unverified reports received include difficulty obtaining a test; and rises in obituaries, death notices and burials.