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Coronavirus: Syrian government addressing virus despite reporting no cases

Aid groups fear a Covid-19 outbreak will overwhelm Syria's healthcare system destroyed by years of war
Opposition groups remain sceptical of the Syrian government's claim that it has no reported cases of Covid-19 (Reuters)

Syria has barred the entry of foreigners from countries who have recorded cases of the new coronavirus and said no cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the country. 

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The entry ban announced on Thursday night followed moves by the Syrian government to close schools, parks, restaurants, and various public buildings because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Despite no confirmed cases, global health officials from the World Health Organisation are concerned with what an outbreak in Syria could mean for the war-torn country. 

"We have the vulnerable population in camps, refugees, slum areas at the outskirts of large urban centres," the World Health Organisation's Syria representative, Nima Saeed Abid told Reuters. 

"If we take the scenarios in China or even in Iran, we are expecting we may have a large number of cases and we are preparing accordingly."

Countries surrounding Syria have all reported cases of Covid-19, making opposition activists and rights groups sceptical of the claim that Syria does not have any reported cases of the disease. 

Pro-Kurdish groups have already closed crossings with government areas as a precautionary measure to contain the potential spread of the virus.

Health workers are specifically concerned by the impact a coronavirus outbreak could have on thousands of Syrians displaced in northwest Syria. 

Mohamed, an aid worker for Islamic Relief, who refused to give his surname for security reasons, told Middle East Eye that the "coronavirus situation will only overburden the system and can prove to be catastrophic".

"Medication stocks are not enough and there is no proper space to quarantine or treat patients that will contract Covid-19," Mohamed said.

"Intensive care units are already lacking and we have seen an increase in trauma patients who come to the hospital 10 or 20 people at a time depending on the strike."