Coronavirus: first case recorded in Syria’s north-west

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A first case of coronavirus was identified in north-west Syria on Thursday, an opposition official said, reviving fears of disaster if the pandemic reached the rebel bastion's displacement camps.

"We regret today to announce the first case of coronavirus in a health worker at one of the hospitals" in the north-western province of Idlib, said opposition health official Dr Maram Al Sheikh.

The head of the World Health Organisation's office in Turkey's Gaziantep, Mahmoud Daher, said the patient was a male Syrian doctor in his 30s who had been working in a hospital in the town of Bab Al Hawa on the Syrian-Turkish border.

"He suspected that he might have contracted Covid-19," and a test came back positive on Thursday, he said.

"There have been no cases so far in northwest Syria until this morning," Mr Daher said, confirming it was the first case.

Aid groups have warned that an outbreak of the virus in one of north-west Syria's camps for displaced people could prove devastating. AFP
Aid groups have warned that an outbreak of the virus in one of north-west Syria's camps for displaced people could prove devastating. AFP

Dr Al Sheikh said: "The hospital has been closed, as have its living quarters."

Those who had been in contact with the patient had been swabbed and isolated, and an emergency meeting convened, she said in a statement on Twitter.

Aid groups have been preparing for months to prevent an outbreak in north-west Syria, where a fragile truce has stemmed a Russia-backed regime offensive against the Idlib region.

The extremist-dominated region is home to some three million people, many living in close quarters in camps after being forced to flee their homes during nine years of war in Syria.

Mr Daher said the discovery of a first case was "worrying because of the conditions on the ground".

"We need to enhance our work with all authorities and service providers on the ground to make sure that no further transmission of Covid-19 can happen. Otherwise, it might become a real problem."

Syria has officially recorded 372 cases of coronavirus, including 14 deaths in government-held areas.

In the Kurdish-controlled north-east, the United Nations has recorded six cases including one death.

There are fears the outbreak in the country is much larger than officially reported due to the widespread lack of testing.

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Palestinian women walk next to a graffiti painted by artists amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in Gaza City. EPA

Iraqis gather at a coffee shop in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. AFP

Iraqi security forces are deployed to enforce an extended curfew amid the pandemic, in Baghdad. AFP

Men walk by covered stalls in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. AFP

Palestinian families enjoy their time at the beach amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Gaza City. EPA

Medical staff and patients listen to Ghada Harb, the leader of the Syrian Ghardenia female choir, and the singers of her group as they perform outside of the Children's Hospital in Damascus, Syria, as part of the official 'The culture at your house' initiative aimed at thanking medics and nurses for their efforts in these times of crisis. EPA

Ghada Harb, the leader of the Syrian Ghardenia female choir, and the singers of her group perform outside of the Children's Hospital in Damascus, Syria. EPA

A woman and her child are sprayed with disinfectant as they enter a nursery after the government eased the coronavirus restrictions in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

A teacher wearing a protective suit interacts with a child at a nursery after the government eased the coronavirus restrictions in Amman, Jordan. Reuters

A woman buys vegetables from a cafe transformed into a fruit and vegetable shop in Cairo, Egypt. Reuters

Egyptians wearing protective face masks stand outside a post office in Cairo, Egypt. EPA

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Tunisian player Naim Selliti attends a training session at the Elmanzeh stadium in Tunis, Tunisia. Tunisian national football team resumed training on Monday. EPA

A Tunisian public health worker disinfects El Menzah Olympic Stadium in Tunis. EPA

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Updated: July 10, 2020 12:48 AM

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