WHO concerned about outbreak of coronavirus in the Middle East

GENEVA – On Thursday, The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that Middle Eastern governments need to take quicker action to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 after known cases in the region rose to nearly 60,000, almost doubling from a week ago.

Health officials fear that the actual number of cases is much higher due to insufficient testing and an incentive of some governments to hide actual case numbers. Weak governments with poor or collapsed health systems, such as Syria, will be hard-pressed to handle widespread coronavirus infections. Early and comprehensive preventive actions are the only hope in avoiding a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe.

The WHO believes that Syria is witnessing increasing coronavirus cases due to its religious shrines, such as Sayyida Zeinab shrine and Sayyida Ruqayya shrine in Damascus. Pilgrims from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan continued to travel to Syria long after such travel would be advisable. Most known cases in Syria appear to have come from abroad, however, the WHO believes it is only a matter of time before community transmission becomes evident in Syria.