• Number of people confirmed by the Ministry of Health to have COVID-19: 16 (including two fatalities)
• Areas of concern: Densely populated areas, notably Damascus/Rural Damascus and those living in camps, collective shelters and informal settlements in northeast Syria (NES), as well as areas where hostilities may be ongoing making sample collection more challenging.
• Populations of concern: All groups are susceptible to the virus. However, the elderly (those 60 years and above) and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk; as are vulnerable refugee and IDP populations and healthcare workers with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
The global situation remains highly fluid. However, at the time of writing, 205 countries, areas and territories had reported 932,605 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 46,809 deaths (CFR=5 per cent). While the United States has the most confirmed cases globally (213,372), Italy represents the most deaths to date (13,155). In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, more than 57,474 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including 3,260 deaths, the vast majority occurring in Iran.
In Syria, sixteen cases have been reported to date. The first – a traveler reported as tested on arrival – was announced on 22 March as having tested positive for COVID-19. On 25 March, the Ministry of Health announced a further four cases; followed by another five, including one fatality on 29 March. One further fatality was reported on 30 March, in addition to six cases on 2 April.
Points of Entry
Border crossings remain impacted as Syria and neighboring countries continue implementation of precautionary measures.
Most land borders into Syria are now closed, with some limited exemptions remaining (from Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon) for commercial and relief shipments, and movement of humanitarian and international organization personnel. International flights have been suspended to Damascus International Airport, albeit with humanitarian and commercial exemptions ongoing for domestic flights. Tartous and Lattakia ports remain operational, with precautionary measures, including mandatory sterilization procedures, in place.
In NES, local authorities have closed the Fishkabour/Semalka informal border crossing, without exemptions, until further notice.
Restrictions are also in place at most other crossing points inside Syria. Al-Taiha, Abu Zendin, Um Jloud and Awn Dadat in Aleppo are reported closed, as are Akeirshi and Abu Assi crossing points in Ar-Raqqa. As of 1 April, Ghazawiyet Afrin and Deir Ballut in Aleppo, was reported closed until at least 15 April. Altabaka in Ar-Raqqa, Jelighem in Rural Damascus and As-Salhiyeh crossing points remain partially open with restrictions.
The Government of Syria (GoS) continues to implement a range of preventive measures to be imposed until at least 16 April. This includes a curfew from 6pm to 6am; a ban on travel between governorates and also travel within governorates to and from urban and rural centers, with exemptions for emergency and health services, humanitarian and essential services (electricity, water, and communications), and journalists. All education facilities, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, cultural and sporting clubs remain closed, and public sector offices remain on reduced working hours. The GoS has also announced further initiatives, including alternatives to existing bread distributions and public service salary and retirement payments, in a bid to reduce overcrowding.
On 1 April, the GoS announced a total lockdown for residents in Mneen, rural Damascus. The GoS further announced the measures had been imposed as the second person to die due to COVID-19 had lived in the area. On 2 April the GoS announced an extension of the dusk to dawn curfew starting each Friday at 12.00 and lasting until 06.00 each Sunday.
Similarly, local authorities in NES continue to implement curfew restrictions, as well as closure of all non-essential public and private facilities, offices and shops. All gatherings and events remain cancelled.
In the past two weeks, significant price increases and some shortages in basic goods (as much as 40 per cent in food staples) and personal sterilization items (face masks, hand sanitizers – up to 5,000 per cent increase) was reported across Syria. The GoS has recently announced stricter measures to ensure retailers only sell some specified basic goods at certain official price limits, but has also, in reflection of the increased costs, announced higher maximum official prices at which goods can be sold. The exchange rate has also further weakened in past days to the lowest point on record, closing at an unofficial rate on 25 March of SYP 1,325 to US $1, it has subsequently stabilized to around SYP1,220 at the time of writing (representing a more than 50 per cent devaluation compared to a year ago). On 26 March, the Central Bank of Syria adjusted the official rate from SYP 438 to SYP 704, and announced that only the GoS Ministry of Trade would have access to the former rate, as a preferential rate to enable cheaper purchases of basic commodities.
A number of humanitarian partners, including UN agencies, INGOs and NNGOs have reported operational delays and disruptions due to preventive measures, although many have already or are in process of adjusting modalities. All sectors are rapidly mapping and monitoring impacts to assistance programming and adapted changes to meet emerging needs. Of note, a number of education programs and community-based services and activities, including in protection, livelihoods and psychosocial support programming, remain suspended. A recent survey carried out by the Protection Sector indicated that over 400,000 people have been immediately impacted by the disruption of protection services since the preventive measures were first imposed.
The UN and partners continue to coordinate with relevant sectors to modify programming as appropriate. Examples include installation of handwashing and sanitation facilities at distribution points, combining distributions (e.g. food, sanitation and NFIs together), measures to reduce overcrowding including utilizing community focal points, and appropriate use of PPE by humanitarian workers. Other measures, including the increased use of cash, utilizing individual counselling rather than group sessions, and adapting learning programs to home study are being adopted. OCHA continues to closely monitor and work with partners, as is the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), accommodating programmatic changes (no-cost extensions) where necessary.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.