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Over 200 UN staff in Syria infected with coronavirus: report

A UN official estimated a ten-fold spike in Syria's coronavirus cases in two months [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 September, 2020

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The United Nations reported over 200 of its staff in Syria tested positive for Covid-19 amid the country's spike in virus cases, according to a Reuters report.
Over 200 United Nations staff in Syria have been infected with the novel coronavirus, Reuters reported on Monday, as the war-torn country experiences a spate in Covid-19 cases.

UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria Imran Riza last Tuesday disclosed the number of cases among staff and announced the UN was in the final stages of securing a medical facility for treatment, according to an internal letter leaked by an infected UN staff member to Reuters.

"More than two hundred cases have been reported among UN staff members, some of whom have been hospitalised and three who were medically evacuated," Riza said in the letter, which was destined to UN heads of agencies.

Riza added Syria experienced a ten-fold spike in coronavirus cases over the two months since he last briefed staff.

Aid workers and medics estimate the number of cases to be significantly higher, including hundreds of staff employed by NGO partners working for UN agencies, according to Reuters.

Syria is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, as the virus has spread rapidly in both regime-held areas and territories outside government control.

Since August, autonomous northeast Syria alone has witnessed a 1,000 percent increase in Covid-19 cases, according to the International Rescue Committee.

The region has only 13 ventilators and 28 ICU beds for a population of 2.2 million, as well as one of the world's lowest testing rates in the world, with just 59 tests per million people.

Opposition-held northwest Syria - which contains packed refugee camps and lacks hygiene items and medical equipment - experienced a spike in infections last week when nine new cases were reported on Wednesday, the region's biggest increase in a single day since its outbreak began in July.

Though the Syrian regime officially reported 3,171 cases and 134 deaths since the country's initial Covid-19 outbreak, observers have suspected an active cover-up and estimated the numbers to be much higher.

Last week, Human Rights Watch said frontline staff battling the coronavirus in Syria's government-held areas are dying in growing numbers for want of personal protective equipment.

The organisation reported multiple deaths of doctors from Covid-19-related symptoms, many of which did not appear in government figures because no testing was carried out.

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