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.
COVID-19 cases reported by the Ministry of Health (MoH): 24,723 (1,801 fatalities, 21,654 recovered).
Healthcare workers affected reported by the MoH: 969 cases, including 31 deaths.
As of 26 May, the MoH reported approximately 130,722 tests have been performed in laboratories in Damascus,
Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Lattakia and Rural Damascus governorates.
As of 24 May, the MoH reported that of the first shipment of COVID-19 AstraZenica vaccines obtained under the COVAX Facility, approximately 24,780 doses had been administered, with healthcare workers prioritized. WHO, UNICEF and other partners continue ongoing technical support to national vaccination plans.
The socio-economic impacts of the pandemic continue to be one of several factors contributing to increased humanitarian needs across the country, with an estimated 13.4 million people requiring assistance in 2021.
At the time of writing, 173,674,509 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3,744,408 deaths had been reported globally. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 10,353,366 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including 206,573 deaths.
In Syria, the MoH has reported 24,639 laboratory-confirmed cases to date: 23 in Ar-Raqqa; 106 in Al-Hasakeh; 231 in Deir-Ez-Zor; 484 in Quneitra; 1,090 in Hama; 1,284 in As-Sweida; 1,310 in Dar’a; 1,841 in Tartous; 2,549 in Rural Damascus; 2,955 in Homs; 3,583 in Aleppo; 3,814 in Lattakia; and 5,453 in Damascus. Since the last report on 5 April, 5,319 new cases have been announced. The MoH also announced 1,801 fatalities, an increase of 488, in addition to 21,654 recoveries.
The MoH has also reported 969 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 278 cases since our last report, including 31 who have sadly died (an increase of one). This underscores not only the particular and ongoing risks to healthcare workers, including in the context of reports that healthcare workers in some areas do not have sufficient PPE. It also highlights – given Syria’s existing fragile healthcare system with already insufficient personnel working under very challenging circumstances – the potential for its overstretched capacity to be further compromised. WHO, alongside UNICEF and other partners, are working to support efforts to rollout national vaccination plans, with healthcare workers prioritized to receive vaccines including those obtained under the COVAX Facility, in addition to supply PPE where needed.
With at least 21 reported deaths among teachers/administrative staff since schools reopened in September 2020, considerable challenges remain in preventing transmission in schools, particularly given the overall country context of overcrowded classrooms, teacher shortfalls, and poor/damaged infrastructure. Between 30 May to 22 June, approximately 560,000 students will sit national 9th and 12th grade exams, including up to 16,000 students (in addition to guardians) who may travel cross-border from Lebanon or cross-line within Syria. At the time of writing, approximately 5,750 students had arrived cross-line to sit exams, the majority in Aleppo. Education Sector partners, including WHO and UNICEF, are supporting preventive actions during exams, including through PPE and hygiene kit distributions, deployment of mobile health clinics, promotion of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, and light rehabilitation of WASH facilities in exam centers and accommodation centers for visiting students, including in Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, and Ar-Raqqa.
Overall, while official numbers remain relatively low, it is clear community transmission in Syria is widespread. Epidemiological analysis indicates a second wave in mid-December, when the caseload was the highest reported so far in a single month (3,547). After a relative tapering off of reported cases in February, in the reporting period numbers again surged throughout late March to early April, possibly indicating a third wave. In past weeks, reported numbers have once again tapered, but still remain relatively high with significant positivity rates against limited testing. In three governorates – Homs, As-Sweida and Tartous – current positivity rates exceed 50 per cent. As earlier reported, humanitarian actors have received ongoing, unverified reports concerning additional possible cases. It remains highly likely the actual number of cases far exceeds official figures, with significant numbers of asymptomatic and mild cases in particular going undetected.
Contact tracing also remains a challenge, including in more remote governorates and camps. In addition, for reasons including community stigma and individual reluctance to go to hospitals, it is further likely significant numbers of people with symptoms are not seeking tests or treatment. In addition to making actual numbers of cases difficult to ascertain, this may increase the risk of late referral of severe/complicated cases for treatment, negatively impacting the long-term health prospects and survival of patients.
As of 7 June, authorities in Northeast Syria (NES) have reported 18,036 cases, including 732 fatalities and 1,829 recoveries. Healthcare workers have also been affected, with 996 reported cases to date, approximately 10 per cent of the current workforce, In some cases, the high numbers of healthcare workers affected has necessitated temporary shut-down of several healthcare facilities for periods of up to 14 days, limiting services available to the local populations. While transmission remains significant in NES, the number of new daily cases in the region has reduced significantly from the peak in April, after significant lockdown measures were instated by the local authorities.