In October, COVID-19 cases continued to spread across Syria at an alarming rate. As of 31 October 2021, a total of 43,146 COVID-19 cases, including 2,558 fatalities, were confirmed by the Minister of Health in government-controlled areas. The monthly increase in COVID-19 cases in October (8,941 cases) signals an upward trend compared to September 2021 (6,290 cases) and represents the highest monthly caseload since the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, the Syrian Government opened all healthcare centers across the governorates to provide the COVID-19 vaccination and allocated medical teams to visit ministries and public authorities to vaccinate the employees. In October 2021, around 35,513 COVID-19 cases were reported across northeast Syria, an increase of 7,440 new cases compared to the previous month, representing the second highest monthly caseload since the start of the pandemic. In response, the Kurdish authorities extended the imposed lockdown in Kurdish-controlled areas across northeast Syria throughout most of October. In opposition-held areas in northwest Syria, approximately 88,423 COVID-19 cases were reported by the end of October, an increase of 14,968 new cases compared to the previous month and representing the second highest monthly caseload since the start of the pandemic. On the other hand, as of 31 October 2021, a total of 503,394 people were reportedly fully vaccinated, representing around 2.3 percent of Syria’s total population (21.7 million people) and an increase of 182,118 vaccinated people compared to a month earlier. These findings highlight concerns of a potential increase in the COVID-19 infection rate nationwide.
The fuel shortage crisis continued to worsen across Syria. On 23 October, the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection (MoITCP) increased the price of subsidized industrial and commercial diesel from SYP 750/liter to SYP 1,700/liter for private industrial facilities and private commercial and service activities. Moreover, as a result of the skyrocketing butane gas prices in the informal markets, on 24 October, MoITCP set the price of domestic and industrial butane gas cylinders for consumers and all sectors outside the electronic card at SYP 30,600/10 kg and SYP 49,000/16 kg, respectively. This decision would not affect the price of subsidized butane gas sold through the electronic card. Simultaneously, on 3 October, the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade announced the establishment of a solar power plant in Rural Damascus to provide 300 megawatts of power. On 19 October, a presidential Decree was issued to establish a fund to support renewable energies, raise energy efficiency and reduce the consumption of fuel and electric energy used in the main sectors.
The general security situation remained volatile in October. Intensified hostilities were reported in northern Aleppo, concentrated in Tall Refaat and the nearby communities, resulting in a displacement of over 1,327 people from this area between 15 and 24 October. Also, on 20 October, a military housing corporation transport bus was targeted by an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in central Damascus, near to the country’s military command and hotels used by international humanitarian organizations.
The United Nations has sounded the alarm over the recent water crisis and drought-like conditions affecting Syria, coupled with existing damage and neglect of farmlands and irrigation systems as a result of a decade of crisis. Around 40 percent of the irrigated agricultural areas are no longer able to rely on availability of water. Wheat production throughout 2021 was estimated at around 1.05 million tons, down from 2.8 million in 2020, and only a quarter of the pre-crisis average of 4.1 million tons (from 2002 to 2011). The estimated harvested barley area (352,000 hectares) decreased by 75 percent from the last year, and the rainfed barley production in 2021 reached around 268,000 tons. Furthermore, on 19 October, the Syrian Government announced its initial budget projection for 2022, which was estimated at SYP 13,325 billion (an increase of around 57 percent from last year’s budget projection of SYP 8,500 billion). The budget of 2022 allocates around SYP 5,529 billion to the state’s social support and subsidy programmes.