August 20, 2020

The Syrian regime is lying about the real scale of COVID-19

"The numbers from the Syrian Health Ministry feel as if they are coming from another world."

From Sami (a pseudonym for his safety), a Syrian pharmacist based in Damascus. Sami has been infected by COVID-19 and has been in self-quarantine for 10 days:

“Today Syrian regime areas remain under-documented and we barely hear any news about the situation in Damascus. 86 doctors have been reported dead in the city of Damascus, and that number doesn’t include other medical workers, the nurses, and the pharmacists who are frontline defenders when it comes to facing the consequences of COVID-19 in Syria. However, there is no official documentation of these deaths.”

“My Facebook newsfeed is only filled with news of people dying of COVID-19. I myself got infected with the virus but I didn’t do a test, as testing in Damascus is a privilege. And people are actually avoiding getting tested because the only testing center in Damascus is in al-Jalaa center, which could be considered a spreading point.”

“There were five testing centers, but they were shut down and now the tests are being done in al-Jalaa center. It might take people a week or 10 days to even get an appointment. Mostly, it’s people who are planning to travel who are desperately trying to get tested, as they need a paper that proves they don’t hold the virus at the border.”

“The numbers from the Syrian Health Ministry feel as if they are coming from another world. The hospitals themselves are the worst places to be currently. If people are lucky enough to get into hospital, if there is a free spot, they will then be infected with other hospital viruses that are even worse than COVID-19. Most of the patients who go to hospital are dying there.”

“I don’t even know where to start when describing the medicine situation. People are prescribing vitamins to patients in an attempt to strengthen their body immunity. Mostly these vitamins are out of the stock, and when they are found they are sold at three times the normal price.”

“Hezbollah and the Fourth Military Division monopolize the medicine smuggling into the country from Lebanon and Turkey. There are trucks filled with medicine being smuggled into the country, but only for them to sell at much much higher prices. It’s clear it benefits them when medicine is out of stock. Pharmacists in Syria are stuck between the medicine providers affiliated to Hezbollah and the Fourth Military Division, and their patients who can’t afford anything.”

“There is no commitment when it comes to personal protection procedures. Not because people don’t want to commit, but because using masks and disinfectants is mostly a privilege. One liter of disinfectant liquid is being sold for 7000 Syrian pounds and it’s getting more and more expensive everyday. Disposable face masks are being sold for 4000 Syrian pounds. Even nurses and doctors are not wearing personal protection equipment sometimes.”

“There are no efforts being made by the Syrian government to minimize gatherings. We are witnessing 200-300 people in front of bakeries to get bread, and even in government centers where sugar and rice is being distributed.”

“There is currently no solution and there is no entity to rely on. We are talking about the city center of Damascus, imagine what the situation is like in other areas! We can’t even imagine. Right now we are just relying on herd immunity. We have been left alone to face loads of things including COVID-19. We are living under the control of a regime that we never chose, facing all sorts of fears. Now even being concerned about what comes next seems like a privilege. I’m just looking forward to recovering and to getting back to work and supporting the community with the minimal efforts that I can.”