The number of recorded COVID cases in North and East Syria is rapidly approaching 8,000 cases, according to health officials. Alarmingly, the region has now recorded its first cases at the crowded al-Howl camp, a camp housing 70,000 refugees, internally displaced Syrians, and ISIS detainees and their families from multiple countries. There are now cases in the Shahba Region, a small enclave housing 240,000 people, most of them displaced in the past two years from Turkish-occupied Afrin.

Authorities announced that they have recorded 47 new coronavirus cases in its areas during a two-day period, in a statement by Dr. Jiwan Mustafa, co-chair of the Health Commission of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), on Wednesday, December 23. 

This brings the total number of cases in North and East Syria since the start of the pandemic to 7,824, of which 263 have died.

The number of recorded cases is accelerating, and at the projected rate, the number of cases is due to exceed 8,000 in the coming weeks. COVID is spreading faster and faster into North and East Syria.

According to the AANES data, the region showing the sharpest increase of new cases over the reporting period was in the al-Tabqa region, with 29 new cases within a six-day period being recorded. The new cases show at least 19 new cases in the Shahba region over the past two weeks. One death from COVID has been recorded from the al-Howl camp over the past two weeks, indicating that community transmission is likely.

The true number of cases and deaths is estimated to be much higher than these official numbers. A lack of testing and a shortage of health clinics and facilities, testing kits, trained medical personnel, and medical supplies is the result of a decade of war and instability. In camps like the al-Howl camp, resources were stretched thin, even prior to the global pandemic. In this environment, it is not possible to conduct accurate testing or implement comprehensive COVID prevention measures.