As of August 15, 2020, the Syrian Ministry of Health (MoH) has reported 1,593 COVID-19 cases across Syria: 1,125 active, 408 recoveries and 60 registered deaths. The first positive case was announced on 22 March 2020, with the first fatality reported on 29 March 2020.
As of 24 July, 44 health care workers (8% of reported cases) tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Syrian MoH, an increase of 26 health workers since the previous report. 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.
The UN remains concerned about the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases across Syria. Precautions against a potential spread of the virus have been scaled up in the past months. In Damascus, this includes the capacity building in 125 hospitals to provide active surveillance, as well as 18 isolation centers and 111 rapid response teams. The level of testing remains extremely limited throughout Syria. Capacity for testing throughout the country remains around 350 tests per day, and there have been around 16,000 tests conducted in total2.
As some impact analysis is revealing, the impact of the lockdown and Covid-19 on women exacerbated some of their responsibilities and added to their burden in terms of household tasks. The work overload, the increased responsibilities and the movement restrictions also impacted negatively on mental health. Covid-19 has also added to the already-existing precarious economic situation and the pressure on women and female youth to work seems to be higher, particularly for women heads of their households.
The ongoing economic crisis has exacerbated humanitarian needs of the more than 11 million people across Syria in need. The poverty rate is over 90% and the national average food basket in June (SYP 84,095), is up 153% compared to December 2019,3 with the prices of basic items and goods having further increased in the local markets thus creating a large gap in accessibility between average wage income and the consumer market.
Reproductive health facilities were not prepared for the COVID-19 outbreak, the prevention measures against Covid-19 greatly reduced daily patients’ visit and access to health facilities was greatly hampered.
Some of the contributing factors include: suspension or lack of health services; the long distances required to reach the health facilities; the scarcity of transportation and the high prices; fear from being infected while accessing health facilities.
The lockdown was a unique experience as for the first time all the family members’ lived together, which contributed to tensions arising, crystallized and exacerbated gender norms, roles and responsibilities of women and men, increased of violence and control over especially women and children.
Although sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, as well as essential Gender-based Violence (GBV) services are now more accessible than in previous months due to lifted restrictions, the pandemic is still severely disrupting access.