COVID-19 and containment measures overview
A. COVID-19 CASES As of 31 March, a total of 50,4001 confirmed COVID-19 cases were recorded across Syria (243 per 100,000) (WHO Syria Dashboard, WHO NWS Dashboard, NES COVID-19 Dashboard 31/03/2021), up from 45,000 by the end of February with a common assumption that those detected and reported are only a small proportion of the actual figures. Some areas are observing a sharp increase in the rate of newly detected cases, which is being referred to as a third wave (Asharq Al-Awsat 02/03/2021).
Government-held areas: positivity rates remain high as rate of newly reported cases increases again
The rate of newly reported cases sharply increased in the first week of March in areas controlled by the Government of Syria (WHO Syria 31/03/2021). Alarmingly, more new cases have been reported this month than any previous month so far, and is being referred to anecdotally as a third wave (Albaath Media 11/03/2021). According to medical sources, the third wave of COVID-19 cases received in the capital’s hospitals included greater numbers of children and adolescents unlike the previous waves (The Syrian Observer 23/03/2021).
As of 31 March a total of 18,909 cases (135 per 100,000) with 12,731 recorded recoveries, and 1,265 deaths have now been reported in Government-controlled areas (WHO Syria 31/03/2021). Alongside this rise in reported cases, hospitalisations and home oxygen users are becoming more frequent. In As-Sweida governorate the number of patients in specialized isolation departments have been doubling weekly during March (Al Watan online 28/03/2021). Approximately 3% of all recorded cases so far have been among health workers. The overall case fatality rate stands at 6.8%, significantly higher than every other country in the region with the exceptions of Sudan and Yemen (WHO Syria, WHO EMRO 31/03/2021).
Northwest Syria: While rate of newly detected cases remains far below the November and December period, cases per capita remains higher than in GoS-held areas During March, 143 new cases were reported in northwest Syria reaching 21,318 cases overall (520 per 100,000) including 637 deaths. Most cases have been reported in Idlib (54%) (Assistance Coordination Unit 01/04/2021, WHO NWS Dashboard 31/03/2021). As of mid-March, 9% of all cases reported so far have been among health workers with an additional 4% among other staff working in health facilities and community health workers, and 11% have been among IDPs (OCHA & WHO 18/03/2021).
As COVID-19 cases have been rapidly increasing in Turkey, more than 3.3 million confirmed as of 31 March, there are rising concerns of cross-border contamination, leading to higher levels of infection in northwest Syria. While provinces in western Turkey are reporting the highest number of cases, provinces bordering northwest Syria witnessed a rise in infection in the second half of March, with Killis, Gaziantep and Hatay provinces recording worrying levels of contamination. Following rising cases and fatality numbers, Turkey announced weekend lockdowns, weekdays curfews and other restrictions during Ramadan (Anadolu Agency 03/04/2021).