New Covid wave hits embattled northwest Syria as health supplies run out

New Covid wave hits embattled northwest Syria as health supplies run out
Northwest Syria is running low on Covid testing kits and oxygen supplies.
2 min read
15 September, 2021
Covid case numbers in northwest Syria have risen rapidly since the beginning of August [Getty]

A new wave of coronavirus has hit embattled northwest Syria, with daily case numbers reaching record highs.

Testing kits and oxygen are becoming scarce in the region, which continues to buckle under the weight of airstrikes.

The total number of Covid cases has more than doubled since the beginning of August, and daily case numbers reached a peak of 1,554 on 6 September.

According to the International Rescue Committee, northwest Syria has just two weeks’ worth of testing kits, and the next batch will not be delivered for “at least a month”.

Oxygen supplies are also at critically low levels.

"There has been a rapid surge in COVID cases in northwest Syria over the past month, and in this current wave there have been more daily cases confirmed than we have ever seen before - the total number of active cases is now over 25,000, which almost equals the total number detected in northwest Syria in the entire past year,” said Tanya Evans, the International Rescue Committee’s Country Director for Syria.

“In the previous wave at the end of 2020, it was very clear that the health system was struggling to cope: not only did testing kits begin to run out, but oxygen supplies also began to run dangerously low - a situation we are beginning to see again today.

"Already some patients are being turned away from community treatment centres, and others are being admitted to non-COVID hospitals, increasing the risk of an outbreak in these facilities.”

Rebel-held northwestern Syria is home to some four million people, many of them displaced by the civil war that has killed half a million people, and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. 

Bombardment of the region has made it difficult to get healthcare access to citizens.

The Syrian government last month shelled a village in the country’s rebel-held area, killing five people, most of whom were children.

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Northwest Syria has been witnessing sporadic military activities since a ceasefire there was reached between Turkey and Russia in March last year, ending a crushing Russian-backed government offensive on Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the war-torn country.

Syria’s government, which agreed to the Russia-Turkey negotiated truce last year, has vowed to restore control over territory it lost during the 10-year conflict.

"It is vital that the international community learns the lessons from the first wave and ensures that people in northwest Syria are not subjected to the same abysmal conditions again,” Evans went on to say.

“More testing kits and more oxygen supplies are urgently needed to address the current shortages, and cross-border access is the only route to secure that.”