Syria ‘on alert’ over coronavirus
Enab Baladi – Mais Shtian
Areas controlled by the Syrian regime and opposition groups are gearing up to respond to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) as it spreads wildly in several countries.
The Syrian Interim Government’s (SIG) affiliated entities in the opposition-controlled areas resorted to a set of precautionary measures to tackle the coronavirus health crisis, and announced their intention to establish specialized medical centers.
In like manner, the government of the Syrian regime has taken similar protective measures, as it announced the expansion of quarantine centers.
Meanwhile, the Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria has suspended movements of all types of passengers through the border crossing points and kept pace with decisions taken in the rest of the Syrian areas and its neighboring countries.
New health centers in northern Syria as coronavirus cripples education and border crossings
Idlib health directorate affiliated to the health ministry in the SIG has announced its readiness to face the emerging coronavirus, especially after its neighboring country, Turkey, recorded several coronavirus cases.
Anas al-Dogheim, a health care official in the Idlib health directorate, told Enab Baladi, on 14 March, that no virus infection has been reported so far, in opposition-controlled areas.
He added that a health team made up of health directorates and health organizations operating in northern Syria will work on setting up three medical units in Idlib city, Darat Izza, and Salqin.
Furthermore, 30 field hospital units will be readied, each consisting of ten tents distributed in northern Syria, along with a health team that will set up a tent next to each health facility designated for screening and identifying suspected coronavirus infections.
Moreover, a trained medical team will monitor and detect infections at the gates and crossings points between the opposition and regime-held areas.
Al-Dogheim pointed out that a central laboratory in Idlib will be equipped to detect infections where trained doctors in Ankara will use the Early Warning, Alert, and Response Network (EWARN) system to follow up and monitor all suspected cases.
Deputy director of Idlib’s health directorate, Mustafa al-Eido, told Enab Baladi that the directorate is conducting an awareness campaign on the coronavirus to prevent the disease from spreading, as well as coordinating with humanitarian organizations to provide prevention kits for people.
Rateb al-Dali, an official at the “Sham 2” camp of Killi village in northern rural Idlib, told Enab Baladi that the residents of the camp are following “primary” protection measures, such as the frequent handwashing with soap and water, using disinfectants, and avoiding overcrowding.
As for education, the directorate of education in northern rural Aleppo declared the suspension of the region’s schools starting from Sunday, 15 March till Saturday, 28 March. It also postponed the date of the standardized test for students of middle and high schools, which was scheduled to take place on 16 March, to a date to be determined later.
Moreover, the suspension included all the directorate’s activities and courses, and those of the directorate of general education.
The presidency of Free Aleppo University suspended the class-attendance at the university for one week starting from Saturday morning, 14 March.
Rector of Gaziantep University, Prof Dr. Ali Gür announced on his Twitter account on 13 March that the university’s colleges in Afrin, Azaz, al-Bab, and Jarablus of rural Aleppo would be suspended for three weeks starting from 16 March.
Nevertheless, Idlib University confirmed that the examinations would continue as it published on its official website a statement denying rumors circulating that the exams were postponed as well as confirming that they started on Saturday,14 March.
The directorate of education in Idlib declared the suspension of all private and public schools and educational institutes of the directorate starting from Sunday, 15 March.
As for the crossing points, the administration of the Bab al-Hawa crossing between Idlib province and Turkey banned the movement of patients with “cold” cases, patients of no acute diseases and of all travelers to Turkey as of Friday, 13 March, for three weeks. However, commercial and aid shipments coming from the Turkish side were maintained, according to a statement on the crossing point’s official website.
The administration of Karkamish crossing declared that it stopped issuing entry permits for Syrians through Jarablus crossing starting from 13 March.
Furthermore, the officials of the Bab al-Salama border crossing suspended Eid holiday visits in light of the preventive measures taken against the coronavirus. They said in a statement that the Turkish side was informed about this step.
The administration of the Abu Zandain border crossing decided on 12 March to stop receiving arrivals into northern rural Aleppo until the end of March. The administration also prevented the company of drivers coming to those areas.
Abu Zandain crossing. which allows civilian movements between the liberated areas (opposition-held areas) and the Syrian regime-controlled territories, is located on the western side of the al-Bab city, near the village of Shamawiya.
The Syrian National Army (SNA) of the SIG stopped civilians entering and leaving the humanitarian gate of “Awn al-Dadat” that they share with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“Autonomous Administration” halts education and closes its border with Iraqi Kurdistan
The Autonomous Administration of northeast Syria suspended in-person classes at schools, universities, and institutes in the areas of their control until further notice.
The Kurdish Autonomous Administration’s statement on 14 March suspended the entry into its areas, except for the local residents. The statement stated that the administration has allocated Tuesdays of every week for entry.
Co-Chair of the Autonomous Administration’s department of health, Joan Mustafa, told the administration’s affiliated Hawar News Agency that they opened several medical points at the border crossings of the administration areas.
He said the administration equipped these medical points with kits for testing all passengers arriving in northeastern Syria, and if there are suspected ill arrivals, the administration will enforce 14-day quarantines in areas equipped for such cases.
Syrian regime’s preventive measures to confront coronavirus
The Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health announced that it ramped up its response to Covid-19 and took strict preventive measures to stem its spread.
The Ministry did not deny the possibility of some cases that have not yet shown signs of the disease, according to its official Facebook page on 13 March.
The Ministry of health also decided to expand quarantine centers at a rate of two centers in each province and to provide them with the necessary kits and human resources.
It also decided to engage students of the last year and higher studies of medicine in hospitals, when needed, as well as to prepare hospitals of private universities to work under the supervision of the Ministry of Health if required, according to the official state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
The regime’s Health Ministry has previously set up an emergency committee of the health directorates according to their geographical distribution and proximity to the border crossings. The committee’s mission is to examine those coming to Syria from the border crossings and airports.
The Syrian Ministry of Transport has also announced the provision of a thermal scanner to detect passengers’ heat at Damascus International Airport. This scanner detects heat in a faster and more accurate way than ordinary devices, according to the Ministry’s Facebook page.
Regarding the educational processes, the regime’s Ministry of Education declared the suspension of in-person classes of public and private schools starting from 14 March till 2 April.
As for the Ministry of Higher Education, it decided to postpone the examinations at public and private universities, open learning system programs, national examinations, and language admission tests of the master’s degree for the period between 14 March till 2 April.
The Syrian Council of Ministers asked the Ministry of Health to provide the ministries of information, endowments, education and higher education with its alertness mechanism to raise awareness about the causes of the virus spread and how to prevent it.
The council decided on 13 March to reduce the number of employees in the public sector administration departments to 40 percent according to a shift system, as well as to reduce the number of working hours and limit them to the period from 9 am to 2 pm, and cancel the fingerprint scanner for a month.
The council also decided that the technicians and production workers will continue to work after implementing health and preventive measures at the workplace and bringing medical staff to carry out the continuant necessary check-ups.
The Syrian Prime Ministry announced on 8 March the suspension of visits and flights with the neighboring countries (Iraq and Jordan), whether as individuals or in groups including religious tourism for one month.
Visits, and flights to countries that declared the epidemic, were halted for two months, while arrivals from these countries were to have a 14-day precautionary quarantine to make sure of their safety.
Nonetheless, Enab Baladi has monitored on 12 March the continuation of flights between Syria and Iraq, despite the Syrian Prime Ministry’s earlier suspension of the flights, according to “Flightradar24“, a worldwide monitoring air navigation website.
In terms of activities and events, the General Sports Federation decided to suspend all sporting activities for all categories and grades until 15 April, as published on its Facebook official page.
The Council of Ministers in Syria also decided to suspend all scientific, cultural, social, and sporting activities that require social gatherings or crowding. The council enforced a strict ban on hookah in cafes and restaurants, closed public halls and adopted a sterilization plan for mass transportation.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) used the term “pandemic” to indicate the prevalence rate of the “coronavirus (Covid-19), following its massive proliferation due to some countries’ inaction to combat the coronavirus.
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