Health system overwhelmed in Northern Syria in most severe COVID-19 outbreak yet

Our teams are trying to scale up operations based on these increasing needs. In August, we reopened two COVID-19 isolation centres in Idlib governorate, and we are now in the process of expanding their capacity. We also renewed our support to two community treatment centres in Afrin and Al-Bab, and we continue to support a treatment centre for respiratory illnesses in Afrin. More than 13 per cent of the total confirmed cases are displaced people living in camps, where we run mobile clinics to conduct COVID-19 tests and distribute prevention kits.

We have also witnessed a worrying increase in the number of people with COVID-19 in northeast Syria over the past few weeks. In the last week of September, an average of 342 people tested positive each day; the highest daily number since the pandemic began.

While numbers had started to decrease in the first week of October, the only laboratory able to perform PCR tests to diagnose COVID-19 in the region is running short on materials. They face the possibility of halting all testing in the coming weeks if numbers do not continue to decline. The supply of oxygen is also under serious strain, with the COVID-19 treatment facility in Hassakeh forced to source oxygen cylinders from Qamishli, Raqqa and Tabqa in order to meet demand.

“In response to this new COVID-19 wave, MSF is partnering with a local organisation to care for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in treatment centres in Hassakeh and Raqqa city,” said Hanna Majanen, MSF emergency medical manager for Syria. “But our ability to source oxygen is stretched, and we are worried that if the number of positive cases increases again, or stays steady at such high rates, we will be unable to meet the demands for all patients.”