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MSF: Northern Syria Experiencing Most Severe Wave of COVID-19

MSF: Northern Syria Experiencing Most Severe Wave of COVID-19

Saturday, 16 October, 2021 - 06:00
A medical staff member assists a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease inside a COVID-19 isolation ward in Qamishli. Asharq Al-Awsat

Northern Syria is experiencing its most severe wave of coronavirus as the needs rapidly outpace already limited oxygen supplies and health facilities begin to run out of testing kits, Doctors Without Borders said this week.

The international medical humanitarian organization noted that in the country’s northwest, the health system is already unable to cope with the new wave of the pandemic, while in the northeast, the coronavirus is spreading at a worrying pace.

It said that in areas controlled by the armed opposition factions in Idlib and the countryside of north and west Aleppo, only 16 out of 33 COVID-19 treatment centers are currently functioning.

The NGO’s report explained that an already limited health infrastructure, as well as supply issues resulting in inadequate screening, make it impossible to both assess the real extent of the spread of the virus and offer an adequate response.

“We see people in desperate need of oxygen or intensive care are stuck in queues, because no beds or ventilators are available, which is leading to a higher mortality rate compared with previous waves,” MSF Head of Mission for Syria Francisco Otero y Villar said.

He said that efforts to contain the virus are hindered by poor access to healthcare and the low immunization rate in the northwest, a region of four million people, where only three percent of people are fully vaccinated.

Hanna Majanen, MSF emergency medical manager for Syria, expressed concern that if the number of positive cases rises again, or stays steady at such high rates, the organization will be unable to meet the needs of all patients.

She called on the international community to provide support and protection for healthcare workers, testing kits and oxygen and to help increase bed capacity in hospitals and the expansion of vaccination coverage to keep the health system functioning in northern Syria.

In a related development, medical authorities in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria announced a 10-day curfew in Ain Al Arab and Tal Abiyad for the coming 10 days to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In the past 24 hours, the Health Board of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) announced 309 new coronavirus infections and 18 deaths in northeast Syria.

The total cases in the region has reached 31,413, including 1,077 deaths, and 2,286 recoveries.

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