Executive Summary / Highlights
Epidemiological overview: As of 20 October 2020,the total number of reported confirmed cases across all areas of Syria was 11,575, an increase of 161% since 20 October where 4,429 total cases had been reported.
Given the limited testing activity across Syria and scarce information, the actual number of cases likely far exceeds official figures. Of particular concern is the number of health workers affected by the disease, making up 16% of confirmed cases in northeast Syria and 15% in northwest Syria. Another major concern is the alarming positivity rate of COVID-19 testing: in northwest Syria the positivity rate has been 21% since 9 July 2020 and in northwest Syria it is 35% as of 30 September. 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. 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, with notably the reopening of schools across Syria despite the number of reported confirmed cases rising by 154% across Syria between 20 September and 20 October 2020.
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. While cumulative Risk Communication and Community Engagement efforts reached an estimated 15 million people as of end September, survey information and anecdotal evidence suggests the risk perception across Syria is very low and considerably low adherence to individual preventive measures has been observed in some communities.
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.