1. COVID-19 and containment measures overview
A. COVID-19 CASES
Infection remains widespread despite a decreasing rate of newly reported cases and positivity rates.
As of 31 January a total of 43,5001 cases (211 per 100,000) were recorded across the country (MoH GoS, WHO, NES COVID-19 Dashboard). While testing remains too limited to understand the true extent of the outbreak, there are indications that Syria may be experiencing a renewed wave of infections, with continued widespread community transmission. Cases reported in schools continue to increase, although at a slower rate, almost doubling since mid-December reaching 2,100 cases by mid-January, including 80 deaths. Of these, half were reported among teachers and staff (WHO & OCHA 01/02/2021).
Government-held areas: still high positivity rates despite decreasing number of confirmed case
As of 31 January, more than 14,000 confirmed cases had been recorded in government-held areas, including 921 deaths (MoH 31/01/2021), about double the caseload as of the end of November. While daily reported cases have decreased in January (WHO & OCHA 01/02/2021), more than 50% of tests are coming back positive in As-Sweida and Tartous governorates and 60% in Homs governorate (OCHA 20/01/2021). As patients with severe conditions in hospitals only and clinics are being tested and with limited testing and accurate information from the government, the real scale is likely even greater (The Syria report 16/12/2020). Reports of 100% bed occupancy rates increased in December, notably in As-Sweida and Homs governorates (OCHA 16/12/2020).
Northwest Syria: increased number of COVID-19 deaths despite decreasing number of confirmed cases
As of 31 January, about 21,0001 total confirmed cases in Northwest Syria were reported, mostly in Aleppo and Idlib governorates (Assistance Coordination Unit 31/01/2021), an increase of only a few hundred compared to a month ago. Although the rate of new cases between December and January declined sharply compared to November and December (7% increase compared to 47%), the number of deaths associated with COVID-19 increased by 46%, reaching 380 COVID-19 associated deaths half of which were in just two districts, Harim and Idlib (WHO & OCHA 26/01/2020 & Assistance Coordination Unit 31/01/2021).
However, anecdotal information suggests that COVID-19 remains widespread, notably due to people still being reluctant to seek testing and treatment due to stigmatisation and concerns about the loss of livelihoods (OCHA 26/01/2021). Cases in camps continue to represent about 10.5% of all confirmed cases, a stable proportion compared to December, with most being reported in Harim camp (OCHA 26/01/2021).