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Syrian Arab Republic: COVID-19 Response Update No. 09 - 21 August 2020

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This report is produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in collaboration with humanitarian partners. The next report will be issued on or around 3 September 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • As of 20 August, the Syrian Ministry of Health (MoH) confirmed 2,008 people tested positive with COVID-19, including 82 people who died and 460 who recovered.

  • In northwest Syria (NWS), 51 people with COVID-19 have been identified as of 19 August, including 23 cases in Idleb and 28 in Aleppo governorates. No deaths have been reported.

  • As of 19 August, 280 people with COVID-19 were reported in north-east Syria (NES), including 16 deaths and 36 people who recovered.

  • Of the cases announced to date by the Syrian MoH, 76 are reported to be healthcare workers; the majority in Damascus.

  • As of 10 August, 21,070 COVID-19 tests have been performed in laboratories in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Lattakia governorates. In addition, 3,543 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Idleb National lab for samples from Idleb and northwest Aleppo countryside as 3 August 2020.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

To date, the Syrian MoH has reported 2,008 people with COVID-19. Of these, Damascus reported the highest number of cases (730), followed by Aleppo Governorate (277); Rural Damascus (256); Lattakia Governorate (226); Homs (161); AsSweida Governorate (85); Tartous Governorate (82); Quneitra Governorate (63); Hama Governorate (59); Dar’a Governorate (39); Al-Hassakeh (26); as well as Deir-Ez-Zor (4). To date, the Syrian MoH has confirmed 82 deaths and 460 recoveries.

As of 16 August, 105 cases were announced as imported and 203 as a secondary case (exposure/contact with a known case). Nearly 24 per cent of cases presented as severe/critical required hospitalization, including, in some cases, oxygenation or mechanical ventilation in intensive care units (ICUs), Syrian MoH data revealed.

According to the Syrian MoH, 76 healthcare workers (four per cent of reported cases) have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 31 since the last report. This highlights the particular risks faced by healthcare workers; and underscores the potential for its overstretched healthcare capacity to be further compromised.

Humanitarian actors continue to receive unverified reports concerning additional possible cases, as well as information indicating that in some areas, existing healthcare facilities have been unable to absorb all suspected cases and/or healthcare facilities are suspending surgeries or adapting wards to accommodate increased numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Unverified reports have also been received of an increase in obituaries, death notices and burials. While the UN is not in a position to verify this information; it is of note that official cases confirmed by the MoH have more than doubled in the last three weeks - indicating that community transmission is now widespread.

Since July, the epidemiological situation in Syria has rapidly evolved. In July, 532 cases were confirmed, compared to 157 cases in June and 79 cases in May. At the time of writing in August, authorities have confirmed more than 920 cases. Given the limited testing across Syria, it is therefore possible that asymptomatic and mild cases are going undetected and the actual number of cases may far exceed official figures.

Of the 82 fatalities in GoS-controlled areas, 48 were in Damascus, 8 were in Homs; 6 were in As-Sweidaa; 5 were in Aleppo ; 3 were in Rural Damascus, 3 were in Tartous, 2 were in Al-Hasakeh, 2 were in Latakia, 2 were in Deir Ezzor, 2 were in Hama, and 1 was in Quneitra.

As of 10 August, the Syrian MoH reported 21,070 tests had been conducted by the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) in Damascus and the public health laboratories in Aleppo, Lattakia and Homs.
As of 17 August, no new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in NWS, while one new recovery was reported in A’zaz.

In total, 51 cases have been identified, comprising 44 recoveries and seven active cases. Of the active cases, one is in Idleb district in Idleb governorate, while six are in northern Aleppo governorate, including three in A’zaz, one in Al Bab, one in Afrin, and one in Jebel Saman. None of the confirmed cases have been hospitalized. Among all cases, 22 (43 per cent) are healthcare workers. Among the cases, 29 were males and 22 were females. The mean age of cases is 32 years old, while two cases are under five years of age and two cases are over 60 years of age.

In NWS, a total of 656 contacts were identified, of which 0 were identified as new in the past 24 hours. Among the contacts, samples were collected from 371 individuals, with 0 new contacts sampled in the past 24 hours. A total 4,611 samples were collected from NWS (Aleppo 2,110 and Idleb 2,501) of which 4,605 samples have been tested by RT-PCR, with 6 pending.

Total number of new samples collected in the past 24 hours was 79 (Aleppo 27 and Idleb 52). As of 17 August 2020, total 2,523 samples have been tested since reporting of the first case from NWS, with a test positivity rate of 2.0 per cent.

Since the earliest cases of COVID-19 were identified in the region, WHO has scaled up laboratory capacity, including the laboratories which confirmed this recent case in Idleb and Aleppo, in order to detect and diagnose COVID-19. With support and coordination by the COVID-19 Task Force, a total of 159 hospitals and PHC centres have been equipped with COVID19 triage systems, and four health facilities across northwest Syria have been designated and prepared as COVID-19 community-based treatment centers with proper quarantine and isolation measures in place.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in NES continues to rise. As of 19 August, some 280 cases have been reported, including 36 recoveries and 16 fatalities. The highest concentration of cases is in Hassakeh Governorate, particularly Hassakeh city and Qamishli city, with Qamishli witnessing the highest increase in confirmed cases over the past week.

One in five confirmed cases are amongst health workers in NES with the greatest concentration in Hassakeh city. The actual number of COVID-19 cases in NES is likely much higher due to significant under-testing, particularly in areas outside Hassakeh, along with lockdown measures in many areas being lax

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.