Corona in Idlib
Healthcare workers in Syria’s last rebel-held province are bracing for fresh disaster after the overcrowded and poverty-stricken area confirmed its first case of Covid-19.
A doctor in his 30s working at Bab al-Hawa hospital in Idlib near the Turkish border asked to be tested after displaying symptoms, the local health authority said on Thursday evening.
His role as a healthcare worker means he is almost certainly not the only case. The doctor and those who have come into contact with him have been tested and are in self-isolation, and the hospital has been temporarily closed. All routine medical procedures in Idlib have been cancelled.
Idlib’s 3-million-strong population has been dreading a seemingly inevitable outbreak of the coronavirus in a province where 1.1 million people are living in tents and makeshift accommodation. The healthcare system, decimated by years of war and bombing campaigns carried out by Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies, is already struggling to deal with malnutrition and other diseases. .
There is only one polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing machine in the province, purchased by a local NGO. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not sent any machines to Idlib or the Kurdish-held north-east, and only five to regime-controlled Syria.