UN humanitarian chief warns of surge in Covid cases in Syria

UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock warned on Wednesday that the coronavirus is spreading fast in Syria.

Since testing across the country is limited, there is a high degree of uncertainty over the exact scale of the disease in Syria. But from the available information, it is pretty clear that the virus spread is rapid but also accelerating, he told the Security Council in a briefing, Xinhua reported.

The number of new cases recorded in March by the Syrian Health Ministry was twice the number recorded in February. Hospitals in the capital city of Damascus, including intensive care units, are now full, said Lowcock.

In northern Syria, new cases have been confirmed in displacement camps, including at al Hol and al Roj. Both camps lack the resources to treat COVID-19 patients, he said.

The United Nations is doing what it can to provide support, including by enhancing surveillance capacity, by providing personal protective equipment and by providing training for medical workers, as well as supporting the roll-out of vaccination

Last week, the first deliveries of vaccines from the COVAX facility arrived in Syria, and additional deliveries are expected throughout the year, said Lowcock.

The supplies from COVAX, a global tool to procure and deliver vaccines for low- and middle-income countries, should cover around 20 percent of the Syrian population. But that is obviously not nearly enough. It is a vital first step to protect medical workers and those most vulnerable. But more vaccines will be needed as soon as possible, he said.

The vaccine doses that reached northwest Syria were delivered, like all UN humanitarian assistance there, through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey. It is not clear how future such deliveries could reach northwest Syria unless the Security Council confirms the re-authorization of UN cross-border access, he said.