By Syrian Democratic Times

  • Over 130 cases have now been reported in NES, while the true number of cases is likely to be much higher
  • Widespread community transmission of Coronavirus is likely occurring
  • Stay-home orders, social distancing guidelines, mask requirements issued
  • Syrian government has not respected quarantine requirements for people travelling into North and East Syria

A spike in Coronavirus cases will likely occur in North and East Syria by the end of August, said Dr. Jiwan Mustafa, head of the Health Commission of the AANES. “The health situation is not good as a result of massive spread of the virus and the registration of a large number of infections,” said Mustafa, stating that he predicted an “explosion” in cases at the end of August.

The number of positive Coronavirus tests had reached 138 cases by August 11, 2020, with new cases being confirmed each day. This is likely a very low estimate of the number of cases, as testing is scarce. The AANES regional authority has issued strict stay-home orders, as well as implemented mask requirements, social distancing guidelines, and public sanitization procedures. However, there are many reports of people violating the orders, such as 

Since the early days of the pandemic, scientists have warned that the presence of just a handful of confirmed Coronavirus tests is an indication that community transmission already has a foothold and is likely occurring undetected.

In order to verify each case with a near 100 percent accuracy, each positive case in the AANES region is tested a second time, which increases accuracy but causes delay in the testing process. There is almost no testing occurring in North and East Syria, as there is only one PCR testing machine in North and East Syria with results being accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO), in Qamishli. In July, the AANES confirmed that only about 200 tests had occurred in a three-month interval beginning in March.

The Syrian government has not supported the AANES requirements to prevent Coronavirus transmission, allowing about 700 passengers to fly into Qamishli from Damascus and off-board the airplane without being tested for the virus, quarantining, or self-isolating. Damascus is currently experiencing a high rate of Coronavirus infections.

Prior to the earliest reported cases in July 2020, Coronavirus had been managed effectively by the AANES through strict stay-at-home orders, a closing of the border crossings into the region, the voluntary use of masks, and mandated social distancing at weddings, funerals, and meetings. 

But health officials and concerned parties, including influential figures in US Congress, across the world have been sounding the alarm that the region is far from prepared for COVID to arrive. Acute shortages in medical resources, personnel, and testing equipment have resulted from a decade of war and instability, compromising the ability of North and East Syria to prevent the virus.