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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.
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.
Updated: July 10, 2020 12:48 AM
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