Kurdish-led northern Syria says no coronavirus cases, implements countermeasures

The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria (AANES) announced on Thursday that there had been no known coronavirus infections in the territories under their control amid growing regional and international cases of the contagious disease that first appeared in China in late 2019.
author_image Kosar Nawzad

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria (AANES) announced on Thursday that there had been no known coronavirus infections in the territories under their control amid growing regional and international cases of the contagious disease that first appeared in China in late 2019.

“No reported cases of COVID-19 in the region under our control,” an administration statement said, adding, “Access to border crossing has been significantly limited since the week of February 24” with “health screenings in effect at border.”

“We have opened seven quarantine centers, preparing for future cases of COVID-19,” the statement continued. “We have issued travel advisories to the people of North and East Syria not to travel to European countries or any country with a serious outbreak.”

According to the administration, millions of Syrians displaced by nine years of conflict reside in the region held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been the international anti-ISIS coalition’s main partner in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

The SDF also currently detains tens of thousands of affiliates of the terrorist organization and their children at the notorious, sprawling al-Hol Camp.

“All of these refugees and detainees have access to healthcare should they fall ill, though our healthcare infrastructure has been damaged by nearly a decade of war and conflict, and we face resource shortages in all hospitals, healthcare centers, and clinics.”

“We will continue to monitor the health of our people as closely as possible,” the statement affirmed.

The government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus has also denied any cases of the novel coronavirus in their territories, despite reports suggesting otherwise. 

Read More: Syrian government quiet amid coronavirus outbreak 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which cited local medical sources, there have been at least 62 people infected with the virus in the regime-controlled provinces of Damascus, Tartus, Lattakia, and Homs as of Tuesday.

The infections are suspected to have been brought over by Iranian military personnel who had returned to Syria after trips to their home country, now the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East and its primary regional exporter.

So far, Tehran has confirmed over 10,000 cases of the coronavirus and has reported 429 deaths. Among those killed are several senior officials, including ranking members of the military. Experts, however, estimate that those numbers are deflated and could be much larger. 

Read More: Iraq, Kurdistan coronavirus infections steady, as Iran cases soar

Amid an ongoing Syrian government military campaign, backed by Russia and Iran, to retake control over the country, millions of civilians displaced and lacking critical medical necessities could be put at even greater risk, should the coronavirus spread to their populations.

The disease, known officially as COVID-19 and designated a global pandemic, has struck over 134,000 people worldwide and has killed just under 5,000 of them, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Editing by John J. Catherine