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Syrian Arab Republic: COVID-19 Response Update No. 14 - 12 January 2021

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Situation Report
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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 in the beginning of February.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • As of 12 January, the Government of Syria Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced 12,462 COVID-19 cases in the GoS, including 6,098 recoveries and 781 deaths.

  • In northeast Syria (NES), 8,227 cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of 9 January.

  • In northwest Syria (NWS), 20,717 cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of 12 January.

  • Of the cases announced by the MoH, 282 are reported to be healthcare workers, largely in Damascus. In NWS upwards of 2,618 are healthcare and associated workers, and, 761 of confirmed cases in NES are healthcare workers.

  • Socio-economic impacts are exacerbating the already considerable humanitarian needs across the country.

  • There is an ever-increasing concern regarding the supply gap on medical equipment, consumables and supplies.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

In Government of Syria (GoS) controlled areas of Syria, as of 10 January, there have been 12,462 laboratory-confirmed cases reported by the MoH: 7 in Ar-Raqqa; 49 in Deir-Ez-Zor; 35 in Al-Hasakeh; 229 in Quneitra; 583 in Hama; 909 in Tartous; 762 in As-Sweida; 915 in Dar’a; 1,375 in Lattakia; 1,392 in Rural Damascus; 1,957 in Homs; 1,923 in Aleppo; and 2,326 in Damascus.

Highlighting the particular risks faced by healthcare workers, the MoH has reported 282 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, including 15 who are reported to have sadly died. The toll of affected healthcare workers underscores – given Syria’s fragile healthcare system with already insufficient qualified personnel – the potential for its overstretched healthcare capacity to be further compromised. Humanitarian actors continue to receive reports healthcare workers in some areas do not have sufficient PPE. WHO continues to lead efforts to support the increased distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) where needed to ensure the protection of healthcare workers already operating under very challenging circumstances.

Since reopening in September, sharp rises of school-related cases have also been recorded, with 1,540 cases reported up to 10 December; including at least 12 reported deaths. Of those affected, 858 were reported to be teachers/administrative staff, with the highest numbers in Rural Damascus, Homs and Hama. These cases also highlight the challenges of preventing transmission in schools, particularly given the overall country context of overcrowded classrooms, insufficiently qualified teaching personnel, and poor/damaged infrastructure. WHO and UNICEF, along with Health and Education sector partners, continue to strengthen further COVID-19 preventive actions in schools, including teacher and school health worker training, PPE distributions, and infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.

Overall, while official numbers remain relatively low, it is clear that the epidemiological situation in Syria has rapidly evolved and community transmission is widespread in past months. After a slight tapering of reported cases in September, since October reported case numbers have accelerated across the country. All indicators (positivity rate; bed occupancy rate; case fatality ratio) indicate the emergence of the second COVID-19 wave in Syria. Throughout December, there has been a successive rise in the daily cases reported by the MoH, with the highest reported new daily caseload since the outbreakof the pandemic reported on 18 December (169 cases). In December, cases already represent the peak of official numbers reported in a single month (2,555 as of 23 December), following the previous record in November (2,159).

As previously reported, humanitarian actors have received unverified reports concerning additional possible cases, in addition to other information which indicated in some areas, the capacity of dedicated isolation facilities to treat moderate and severe cases, unless expanded, may be unable to cope with the rising time-sensitive demand to save lives; in addition to information that the MoH have suspended surgeries and/or adapted wards to accommodate increased numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Given the limited/insufficient testing across Syria, it is therefore likely that the actual number of cases far exceeds official figures, with significant numbers of asymptomatic and mild cases, in particular, going undetected. Contact tracing is also a challenge, including in more remote governorates and camps. In addition, for reasons including community stigma and individual reluctance to go to hospitals, it is further likely significant numbers of people with symptoms are not seeking tests or treatment or are obtaining private services. In addition to making actual numbers of cases difficult to ascertain, this may increase the risk of late referral of severe/complicated cases for treatment, negatively impacting the long-term health prospects and survival of patients.

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