Syria is currently near the bottom of global rankings for COVID-19 infections. So far, testing in Syria has indicated only 1,255 infections. Currently, the infection rate in Syria is toward the bottom of global rankings both in total and per capita.
There is plenty of reason to suspect the numbers published by dictator Bashar al-Assad’s government. But health authorities outside of the regime have also reported low numbers. Reports from regions just outside of Bashar’s control, such as the Kurdish regions, have also reported similarly low infection numbers. Despite likely underreporting by untrustworthy government entities, it seems clear that COVID-19 infections are dramatically lower in Syria than most of the world, as reported by leading foreign policy researchers at think tanks such as the FDD.
Even though the infection rates in Syria are low, the officially recorded caseload has tripled since July. A health worker informed National Public Radio that many hospitals are being overwhelmed, and that there is insufficient medical staff and protective equipment to manage the growing pandemic. The health worker also reported that the regime warned doctors and health workers not to share information, and that Syrian intelligence officials were watching the hospitals.
Physicians and front line medical workers in Syria have begun to speak out about the growing problems, despite warnings from dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Information has come out that now, reporting the case load is growing with 100 new coronavirus patients arriving at the hospital in Damascus each day, and with 40 deaths from covid each day as well. A physician working in the COVID section of the hospital posted this information on social media, but took the post down in fear of a response from the Syrian Ministry of Health.
Earlier in the Spring, a paper published from London reported that Syria only has the capacity to treat 6,500 COVID-19 cases, due the Syrias lack of health infrastructure and resources. Human rights researchers and international health organizations have reported that the escalating number of COVID cases in Syria represents a serious problem. This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that about 70 percent of healthcare professionals have left the country. Additionally, Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime have executed over 500 confirmed attacks on Syrian health care facilities, according to human rights groups and international relations experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
If the public health crisis in Syria continues to rocket upward, than help from foreign countries and organizations will become necessary for any attempt to curtail the problem. Leading experts on the crisis in Syria have indicated that providing this medical help to many areas in Syria will be difficult. Russia has used its United Nations veto power to prevent border crossings that were previously key mechanisms to provide aid to Syria. The U.S. and other entities can try to provide aid to regions under Assad’s influence, but any such attempt will be met with manipulation to the extent that the aid may provide little help aside from assisting people who are favored by Assad, according to experts reporting on the crisis in Syria. This form of aid could then serve to bolster Assad’s abusive influence.
As it stands currently, the combination of Russian and Assad’s influence is serving as a roadblock to Syrians receiving needed health care and help for the burgeoning pandemic. Organizations reporting on the health crisis in Syria have made this clear. Both Russia and Assad are calling for the lifting of United States and European Union sanctions. But as sanctions experts such as the FDD have highlighted, these sanctions already have well planned exceptions for humanitarian aid and assistance built into them. As of now, most Syrians have only their own perseverance to rely on to get through this additional crisis.