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Syrian Arab Republic: COVID-19 Response Update No. 16 - 18 February 2021

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Situation Report
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This monthly 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 April.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • As of 16 March, the Government of Syria Ministry of Health (MoH) has announced 16,656 COVID-19 cases in the GoS, including 11,141 recoveries and 1,110 deaths.

  • In northeast Syria (NES), 8,743 cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of 16 March.

  • In northwest Syria (NWS), 21,072 cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of 16 March.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

In Government of Syria (GoS) controlled areas, 16,656 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported by the MoH to date: seven in Ar-Raqqa; 35 in Al-Hasakeh; 62 in Deir-Ez-Zor; 286 in Quneitra; 723 in Hama; 905 in As-Sweida; 972 in Dar’a; 1,272 in Tartous; 1,657 in Rural Damascus; 2,310 in Homs; 2,375 in Aleppo; 2,610 in Lattakia; and 3,442 in Damascus. Since the last report, 1,750 new cases have been announced. The MoH also announced 1110 fatalities, an increase of 129 from the last report, and 11,141 recoveries, 2,387 more from the last report. Overall, while official numbers remain relatively low, it is clear community transmission in Syria is widespread. Epidemiological analysis indicates the emergence of a second wave in mid-December when the caseload was the highest reported to date in a single month (3,547). Given the limited/insufficient testing across Syria, it is likely the actual number of cases far exceeds official figures, with significant numbers of asymptomatic and mild cases going undetected.

The MoH has also reported among their testing results, 654 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 195 cases since our last report, including 29 who have sadly died. This underscores the particular and ongoing risks to healthcare workers and - given Syria’s fragile healthcare system with already insufficient personnel - the potential for its overstretched 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 supply PPE to healthcare workers already operating under very challenging circumstances. Since reopening in September, 2,221 cases have also been reported in schools, including at least 21 reported deaths. Of these, 1,343 were reported to be teachers/administrative staff. These cases highlight the challenges of preventing transmission in schools, particularly given the overall context of overcrowded classrooms, teacher shortfalls, and insufficient space for distancing, due to poor/damaged infrastructure. Along with sector partners, WHO and UNICEF continue to further strengthen preventive actions in schools, including through PPE distributions and promotion of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures.

In NES, as of 16 March, there have been 8,743 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of these, 6,112 are recorded as active, 2,195 have recovered, and there have been 435 deaths. In the last seven days, there were 38 new confirmed cases. There has been a drop in the number of cases reported and registered in NES since the peak of cases in the early winter. The number of cases not being reported, tested or registered is believed to be high. On 4 February, the local authorities lifted all remaining lockdown measures. As of yet, they have not implemented any new public health regulations or recommendations aimed at keeping the number of COVID-19 cases low. The continuing decrease in risk perception of COVID-19 among the community and the lack of public health guidelines means that there are concerns that when the new variants arrive in NES, the conditions exist to make it difficult to institute new policies to keep cases from spreading.

As of 3 March, there have been a total of 67 confirmed COVID-19 cases among IDPs and refugees in camps and sites from a total of 227 samples collected in camps for a positivity rate of 30 per cent (with a further 503 confirmed cases among IDPs and refugees in non-camp settings). The largest number of cases was in Mahmoudli Camp in Ar-Raqqa Governorate, where five individuals tested positive for COVID-19 in the month. As of 16 March, 787 of the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 (9 per cent of all cases) were recorded amongst health workers, with the highest recorded in Al-Hasakeh Governorate.

In NWS, as of 16 March, a total of 21,247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported, with 637. In the last seven days, 33 there were confirmed cases. COVID-19 cases in northwest Syria are increasing at a much slower pace. In February, only 727 new cases were reported, compared to 4,268 cases in December 2020, i.e. an 83 per cent decline. The total number of cases from IDP camps are 2,214 (10.5 per cent). Of all cases, 1,849 (8.7 per cent) are from health care workers (physicians, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and various medical technicians), and another 869 (4.1 per cent) are other staff working in healthcare facilities/community health workers. Since the first case was confirmed on 9 July, a total of 90,438 samples have been tested, with a test positivity rate of 23.4 per cent. Funding gaps are increasing the risk of disruption in vital response services, particularly the referral system for patient transportation, manning points of entry with Infection Prevention Control and screening measures, and essential health services such as hospitals and primary health centres across the northwest in the coming months.

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