Executive Summary / Highlights
Epidemiological overview: As of 1 October 2020, a total of 4,289 confirmed cases have been reported by the Syrian Ministry of Health. Of those cases, 1,429 were in Damascus and 1,017 were in Aleppo Governorate. 1,072 were reported in northwest Syria and 1,670 were reported in northeast Syria. Given the limited testing activity across Syria and the lack of credible information, the actual number of cases likely far exceeds official figures. Of particular concern is the number of health workers affected by the disease. A decade of conflict, multiple displacements, economic shocks in the country and in neighbouring countries, military operations, and violence had already severely affected the population and infrastructure, leading to a weakened capacity to manage the spread of the disease and its repercussions.
Containment measures: While authorities initially reacted to news of the global transmission of COVID-19 by closing most public services and heavily restricting movement, there was a progressive relaxation of these containment measures during the summer. Since September, the new flare-up of cases has led to localized closures and quarantine protocols, but most activities have returned to pre-COVID levels as authorities seem less willing to enforce public health measures and communities seem less willing or able to comply with them.
Information and communication: Despite multiple awareness campaigns conducted throughout Syria, survey results show gaps in knowledge among the population regarding measures for self-protection against contracting COVID-19 as well as what to do while awaiting test results and in case of infection. People in lower-density sub-districts have a lesser understanding of precautionary measures.
Humanitarian needs: The humanitarian situation remains dire as additional stressors created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn, involving currency devaluation, hyperinflation, rising unemployment, and an increasing number of businesses shutting down, are contributing to the erosion of household purchasing power and compounding the humanitarian needs of the 11.7 million people already experiencing need in Syria. While taking precautionary measures is crucial to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, they have added another layer of complexity to humanitarian response by both exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and creating new ones. The response has reported the reduced availability of and access to basic services and employment opportunities. Overall, safety nets and basic resources are strained more than ever before and unaffordability is reported across sectors as being the main barrier to accessing goods and services.