First two COVID-19 cases confirmed in northeast Syria: Kurdish Administration

The Kurdish-led self-administration in northeast Syria has confirmed the first two coronavirus cases in the region after nearly one month and half of the lockdown, officials said on Wednesday.
author_image Hisham Arafat

QAMISHLO (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish-led self-administration in northeast Syria has confirmed the first two coronavirus cases in the region after nearly one month and half of the lockdown, officials said on Wednesday.

“A man and his wife tested positive for COVID-19, which are the first two cases registered in northeast Syria,” Dr. Jiwan Mustafa, head of the Health Authority in northeast Syria, told Kurdistan 24.

Mustafa said the woman is being kept at the national hospital in Qamishlo city while the man is in a quarantine center in Hasakah.

There is no further information available about the cases, including how the patients were infected as they are currently in quarantine and no one has talked to them yet.

Two weeks ago, the Kurdish administration accused and criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) of concealing news of a coronavirus case, although the case was unconfirmed.

The Kurdish administration also criticized the Syrian regime authorities which control Qamishlo International Airport for allowing several people to pass into administration territory without being tested for COVID-19.

Kurdish officials also said Damascus bears responsibility for exposing hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians to outbreaks of the deadly disease.

The Crisis Coordination Cell, formed by the local administration to fight the coronavirus, also criticized Damascus for not coordinating flights with them coming from Damascus to the city of Qamishlo.

The Kurdish-led authorities in Syria have taken several measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic in their region where the health system has been debilitated by almost a decade of civil war.

On March 23, a full curfew was imposed in the region to prevent the spread of the virus. The lockdown was then extended until the end of April.

There had been a testing laboratory in northeast Syria. However, it was lost in October 2019 when Turkey invaded the Kurdish-majority city of Serekaniye. Turkish shelling of the hospital in the city left the laboratory inoperable, as a report by the Rojava Information Center explained on April 5.

Thus, the Kurdish administration was obliged to send coronavirus tests to Damascus, but authorities there refused to receive them.

The Syrian government is widely seen as doing a poor job in dealing with the virus. The Ministry of Health in Damascus has reported only 43 infections so far, with three deaths. Given the far greater numbers that other countries are reporting, including in the Middle East, the Syrian figures appear uncredible.

Syria’s close ally, Iran, for example, has reported over 73,000 cases and over 4,500 deaths. Iraq has reported over 2,003 cases and 92 deaths.

However, two parties have stepped in to provide assistance to the self-administration.

Four PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing machines arrived in northeast Syria from the Kurdistan Region two weeks ago to help Syria’s Kurdish–led authorities test for coronavirus infections.

Additionally, the US-led Coalition against the so-called Islamic State has provided $1.2 million in medical supplies and equipment to help protect staff at hospitals in Hasakah and Shaddadi, as well as to combat the virus more broadly.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany