Syrian regime concealing true scale of coronavirus outbreak

DARAMSUQ (DAMASCUS) — Compared to its neighbors, which are recording thousands of cases per day, the Syrian government in Damascus continues to announce few daily numbers of coronavirus infections despite evidence of a wider outbreak in country.

The Syrian Ministry of Religious Endowments and Affairs has imposed a number of strict measures which are not commensurate with the small numbers of official infections and deaths.

The Syrian Ministry of Health announced the registration of 21 confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the official total number of infections recorded in the country to 561. As for deaths, the Ministry recorded only one death, bringing the number of official deaths to 32 deaths.

However, despite the Ministry’s insistence that the pandemic is under control in the country, wedding halls were re-closed and funerary services suspended by the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Affairs. Additionally, Eid al-Adha prayers have been suspended, as have religious lessons and seminars. Friday prayers will continue but with the implementation of social distancing rules.

While precautionary measures are undoubtedly necessary, the re-imposition of restrictions after they had been previously lifted without an official increase in cases may indicate the measures are reactionary.

In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that there were many more coronavirus cases in Syrian hospitals than the government was admitted. Hospital staff anonymously reported to SOHR that they had be instructed by Syrian intelligence not to speak about the true number of cases they are treating.

Some sources from the Wadi al-Nasara area in the Homs countryside have reported the death of more than 40 people with coronavirus symptoms from the Greek Orthodox Church but the Syrian Government in Damascus has practiced a media blackout, concealing the extent of the spread of the virus.