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What's the truth behind the coronavirus spread in Syria?

  • Ali Cinar
  • 26 Mar 2020

The Assad regime has not been forthcoming with information and if action is not taken, it could become a coronavirus hotspot.

A health worker with a face mask walks inside a hospital, as hospitals enforce a series of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Damascus, Syria March 19, 2020. ( Reuters )

While tensions were reduced through an agreement between Turkey and Russia regarding Idlib, the Assad regime's dirty games continue. 

Currently, there are 3.5 million civilians in Idlib, not including the 1 million who have fled Idlib since December 2019. 

Many of the refugees who fled relocated to camps on the Turkish border. Turkey, in the meantime, continues to provide all types of support including education, medical services, and food to the refugees without interruption and under all types of conditions.

While the world is preoccupied with coronavirus the humanitarian tragedy continues in many countries like Syria - where the world has closed its eyes.

The World Health Organization has sent coronavirus test kits to the Assad regime, but not to suffering regions, including the refugee camps. 

After nine years of war, many hospitals have either been demolished or become inoperable. I would like to underline that 84 hospitals and healthcare facilities were damaged, and hundreds of healthcare personnel have been attacked in the Idlib area since December.

Even though healthcare services provided to Syrian nationals escaping Assad still continues in certain regions with the support of the United Nations and Turkey, in particular, the coronavirus threat has started to spread in Syria, as well. 

Refugees who are already living in unsanitary conditions need help, otherwise, it is likely that things could get out of control.

I recently spoke with Bassam Barabandi, who served as a diplomat to the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Barabandi stated that it is a good thing the ceasefire between Turkey and Russia is continuing; however, the most important issue is the withholding of information on coronavirus deaths in Syria. 

Barabandi, who claims that there are thousands of coronavirus cases and hundreds of people who have died from the virus in Syria, emphasised the possibility of great distress in refugee camps near the border of Turkey in the near future.

I also spoke with Dr Waleed Tamer, President of North Free Doctors Syndicate, who said that they had four cases recently in the northwest in which tests were taken and sent to Turkey. 

He added that the Assad regime is underplaying all coronavirus infections because those who transmit the disease to Syria are the Iranian mercenaries who cross the border without any restrictions. 

He highlighted that Turkey, despite the circumstances, is the only country that really helps them, and their medical personnel were trained in Ankara to diagnose injuries, conduct awareness campaigns, and provide protection methods.

Suzanne Meriden of the Syrian American Council stated that the Assad regime is withholding information from the public and the World Health Organization about coronavirus cases and that there is a serious spread of the virus through the border with Iran. 

Meriden also remarked that they are trying to keep this issue on their top agenda by working with international organizations, and they’re trying to draw attention through public campaigns.

The subject of Iran, in particular, is extremely serious. According to the latest data provided by Johns Hopkins University, there are over 29,000 cases and over 2,200 deaths in Iran. 

Most people don’t realise, or ignore, the fact that there is a serious danger in Syria, considering the close links between Syria and Iran, and the freedom of movement at the borders. 

According to data from the Assad regime, it has only just been announced that there is only one case of coronavirus. The Syrian health minister reported that the country’s first coronavirus case is a woman in her 20s, who is travelling through Syria. Does that sound convincing?

Claiming that there has been only one coronavirus case in Syria, the Assad regime has been lying to the world for weeks, as usual. 

However, humanitarian organisations are clearly stating that there are very serious cases in Syria, and the virus is spreading rapidly.  

If necessary precautions are not taken, and support is not provided, coronavirus can seriously spread over the country, causing considerable deaths. 

According to the information I gathered from local sources, the doctors working there immediately require masks, gloves, hygienic products, and testing kits to be able to provide sufficient service.

Yes, the entire world is dealing with coronavirus. There are nearly 500,000 cases and over 22,000 deaths. Each country is fighting this calamity, which means everybody is busy with their own crisis.  

Many international institutions, including the World Health Organization, are not helping the ones that are most in need of help, outside of making lofty announcements.

International organisations are on the verge of leaving an innocent nation alone in their fight against the coronavirus just as they turned their head the other way after Assad killed half a million innocent civilians.

Now, Western and international organisations should impose severe sanctions on the Assad Regime and should transmit aid to the people who are really in need; otherwise, we will leave Syria to suffer alone, again, but this time against a global pandemic.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to opinion.editorial@trtworld.com

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