Unrecognised HTS-affiliated 'government' seals off Idlib town after coronavirus spreads

Unrecognised HTS-affiliated 'government' seals off Idlib town after coronavirus spreads
The unrecognised Syrian 'National Salvation Government', which is affiliated to the extreme Islamist group HTS, has closed access to the town of Sarmin in rebel-held Idlib province as coronavirus spreads.
2 min read
26 July, 2020
There has been an increase in coronavirus cases in war-ravaged Sarmin [Getty]
An unrecognised "government" affiliated to the hardline Islamist group Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which dominates much of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, closed off the town of Sarmin after a new case of coronavirus was found in the town.

The health ministry of the "National Salvation Government" (NSG) announced on Saturday that Sarmin would be closed off for 15 days, while forces from the NSG’s interior ministry closed off roads leading to the town.

The Assistance Coordination Unit, which organises humanitarian efforts in rebel-held areas of Syria, reported three new cases of coronavirus in rebel-held areas of Syria on Saturday, raising the total to 26. Four of the cases are in Sarmin.

The Syrian regime's ministry of health also announced one death from coronavirus and 19 new cases in regime-held areas, raising the total number of cases there to 627 and the number of deaths to 36.

The head of Sarmin's local council, Ali Taqash, told the Syrian news website Enab Baladi that residents of the town hadn’t cooperated with quarantine measures after the first coronavirus case in the town had been found.

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He said that the local council had then asked the NSG for assistance in enforcing quarantine measures.

The Syrian website Al-Etihad Press reported that a teacher had arrived in Sarmin recently from regime-held areas and tested positive for coronavirus.

The National Salvation Government ordered all people who had arrived in Idlib province from regime-held areas to self-quarantine for 14 days and stay in contact with its "Services Department" so it could monitor them.

The NSG's interior ministry also ordered all residents of rebel-held areas to "immediately report" returnees from regime-held areas, threatening "maximum penalties" for those who hid news of people returning from regime-held areas.

The first case of coronavirus in rebel-held Idlib was recorded on 9 July, when a doctor who had recently been in Turkey tested positive for the disease.

There are growing fears of a major outbreak, because most of the rebel-held area’s health infrastructure has been destroyed as a result of regime and Russian bombing and because humanitarian access to the rebel-held area has been severely restricted after Russia threatened to veto a UN Security Council resolution on aid.

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