Syria

Syrian Arab Republic: COVID-19 Update No. 16 - 16 August 2020

Format
Situation Report
Sources
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Originally published

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This report is produced by OCHA Syria in Damascus in collaboration with WHO Syria and Damascus-based humanitarian partners, and does not reflect cross-border operations. The next report will be issued on or around 29 August 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Number of people confirmed by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to have COVID-19: 1,677 (64 fatalities, 417 recovered).

  • Areas of concern: Densely populated areas, notably Damascus/Rural Damascus, Aleppo and Homs, and those living in camps and informal settlements in NES, collective shelters throughout the country, as well as other areas including Deir-Ez-Zor, and where hostilities may be ongoing making sample collection more challenging.

  • Populations of concern: All groups are susceptible. However, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk; as are vulnerable IDP and refugee populations and healthcare workers with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

  • Of the cases announced to date by the MoH, 69 are reported to be healthcare workers, the majority in Damascus.

  • As of 10 August, the MoH has reported approximately 21,070 tests have been performed in laboratories in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Lattakia governorates.

  • Socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, notably in food security and livelihoods, are likely to exacerbate existing substantial humanitarian needs across the country.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The global situation remains highly fluid. However, at the time of writing, 21,260,760 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID19, including 761,018 deaths (CFR=3.6 per cent) had been reported globally. The United States has the most confirmed cases (5,258,565) and the most deaths to date (167,201). In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, more than 1,710,272 COVID-19 cases have been reported, including 45,361 deaths, around 43 per cent of which occurred in Iran.

In Syria, 1,677 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported by the MoH to date: four in Deir-ez-Zor; 15 in Al-Hasakeh; 29 in Dar’a; 38 in Hama; 63 in Quneitra; 73 in Tartous; 76 in As-Sweida; 134 in Homs; 154 in Lattakia; 210 in Aleppo; 237 in Rural Damascus; and 644 in Damascus. In total, 1,069 new cases have been announced since the last report. The MoH has also announced 64 fatalities – an increase of 29 since the last report – and 417 recoveries. Of the cases, 105 cases were announced as imported and 203 as a secondary case (exposure/contact with a known case). According to available MoH data, nearly 24 per cent of cases presented as severe/critical requiring hospitalization, including, in some cases, oxygenation or mechanical ventilation in ICU units.

Of note, according to the MoH, 69 healthcare workers (four per cent of reported cases) have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 25 since the last report. This includes 48 in Damascus, 13 in Rural Damascus, three each in Aleppo and Quneitra, and one each in Tartous and As-Sweida. This highlights the particular risks faced by healthcare workers; and underscores – given Syria’s fragile healthcare system with already insufficient numbers of qualified healthcare personnel – the potential for its overstretched healthcare capacity to be further compromised.

Since the last update, humanitarian actors have continued to receive unverified reports concerning additional possible cases, and 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 a rise 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, and the source of 1,369 cases to date remains unknown – 1,092 more than the last report – 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 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.

Globally, even the most advanced healthcare systems have been quickly overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. On 20 July, the Minister of Health stated the current increase in COVID-19 cases could evolve into a wider outbreak and emphasized individuals should adhere to preventive measures and seek early treatment.

Since the last report, authorities in Northeast Syria have announced a further 194 cases bringing the total in NES to 204 (139 in Al-Hasakeh, 46 in Aleppo, 10 in Deir-ez-Zor and nine in Ar-Raqqa). Of these, 175 are active with 20 recoveries and nine fatalities also recorded. Twenty two per cent of all cases are amongst healthcare workers.

As of 10 August, the MoH report around 21,070 tests have been conducted by the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) in Damascus and the public health laboratories in Aleppo, Lattakia and Homs. The enhancement of laboratory and case investigation capacity across Syria, including in NES, remains a priority, as does the timely communication of all information relevant to the safeguarding of public health.

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