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Official number of COVID-19 cases in Syrian increases to 33; researchers question Iran’s official numbers

Editing: Mohamad Alaa |
Translation: Nouha Salti

Syria - SMART

The Syrian government Ministry of Health announced recording four new cases of COVID-19, caused by the SARS CoV-2 virus, making the disease’s toll of infected people rise to 33 people, according to official numbers. The small number, which comes incoherent with victim numbers in neighboring countries, led researchers to question the credibility of it, as they did the official numbers coming out of Iran as well.

The Syrian Ministry of Health said in a statement that the four new cases increased the total number of COVID-19 cases to 33, including two deaths and five recovery cases, without mentioning other details.

Syrian government quarantines 16 people in Aleppo:

The Syrian government health-quarantined 16 people in the city of Aleppo, Northern Syria, suspected of carrying the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, medical sources at the government-run University Hospital in Aleppo reported to SMART that 16 suspected COVID-19 patients arrived at the hospital and were immediately quarantined and tested. The sources added that the patients came from the Saif al-Dawlah, al-Qatorji, Hanano, and al-Khalidiyah neighborhoods of the city.

The sources also said that 32 patients were removed from hospital quarantine to properly isolated rooms in their homes, after their health condition improved.

Crossing between Aleppo and Idlib opens with restrictions:

On Thursday, the Crossing Administration of the Syrian Interim Government operating in Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)-controlled areas, announced opening the Atmah – Deir Ballout crossing connecting the northern Aleppo countryside and the governorate of Idlib in Northern Syria, for civilians.

In a statement obtained by SMART, the administration said that the crossing will open on Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays for those traveling to Idlib, and the rest of the week days, except Fridays, for travelers in the opposite direction.

The administration also mentioned that the Darat Izzah – al-Ghazawiyah crossing will remain open as a trade route only.

COVID-19 death toll increases in neighboring countries:

The Turkish Ministry of Health recorded 115 new deaths from the COVID-19, raising the death toll in Turkey to 1518, according to a minister statement.

The Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in the statement that the ministry recorded 4281 new infection cases, increasing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey to 69392, including 5674 recoveries.

The Iraqi Ministry of Health recorded 15 new cases of infection, increasing the total number of infected people in Iraq to 1415.

In a statement obtained by SMART, the ministry said that its laboratories revealed 15 new cases of infection with COVID-19, three cases in each of the al-Basrah, Karbala and Dhi Qar areas and the al-Rasafah area in Baghdad, and one case in each of the Babylon, al-Sulaimaniyah, and Medicine cities.

The statement added that the ministry recorded one recent case of death by the disease in the governorate of Dhi Qar, increasing the total number of deaths by the disease in Iraq to 79, while 812 cases of recovery were also recorded.

Jordan recorded four new cases of infection with the disease, including a child, increasing the number of infected people in the kingdom to 401.

A source from the Jordanian Ministry of Health reported to SMART that three cases of infection were recorded in the city of Irbid for three patients infected by their father, and a case of a child that caught the infection from his mother.

The source said that the total number of infected people in Jordan reached 401, including 250 recoveries.

On Wednesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) started a public facility sanitizing campaign in the al-Azraq camp for Syrian refugees, 80 kilometers north of Amman, as a precautionary procedure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Jamal Yaqout, head of the UNHCR office at the al-Azraq camp reported to SMART that the camp’s management authorized international organization personnel to work inside the camp, at a minimum activity that ensures the continuation of life in it, and to start sanitizing camp exits, entrances, and public facilities.

Yaqout added that the management created a quarantine area, and another to isolate those who enter the camp, saying that the management abides by the regulations of the Jordanian government regarding total and partial quarantine.

Yaqout also mentioned that the number of Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR and residing in the camp reached 41 thousand people.

Doubts about Iranian official numbers of cases and deaths due to COVID-19:

Iranian researchers doubt the validity of official numbers announced by the Iranian Health Ministry of cases and death due to the coronavirus disease (COVDI-19).

According to the BBC, Iranian researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Virginia Tech, developed a model that simulates the spread of the disease. It uses data on infected Iranian travelers who tested positive at the point of entry to other countries, as well as numerous medical community estimates, to calculate what they say is a more accurate figure.

They estimated that, as of 20 March, more than 15,000 people had lost their lives and the number of infections could actually have been closer to one million. That is 10 times the official figures, which by that day was 1,433 deaths and just under 20,000 confirmed cases.

In some cases, the bodies of multiple victims are, instead of being put in individual graves, being placed side by side in long trench-like burial sites - unheard of in this part of the world, according to the researchers.

A doctor from the Mazandaran region of northern Iran, told the BBC that public safety experts had been dispatched to monitor the process of enshrouding, burying and covering the graves with lime, which officials say is used to help disinfect bodies and prevent the spread of the virus.

The doctor said that despite victims' death certificates stating cardiac arrest or the flu as the cause of death, the fact these experts had been dispatched indicated that the cause of death was in fact COVID-19.

Iranian families say they have no information about the whereabouts of their loved ones' bodies. They have been told this will be communicated to them once the crisis is over so they can go to visit the graves of those they have lost.

Religious figures are trying to reassure relatives that their loved ones are being treated with respect and are being buried with all the correct Islamic rites.

On Thursday, Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, said that 1,606 tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number to 77,995.

US has ‘passed the peak’ of coronavirus outbreak:

On Wednesday night, the United States President, Donald Trump, said the U.S. has “passed the peak” of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a press conference in the White House, Trump added, “The battle continues, but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases.”

Trump said he will discuss guidelines for reopening the country on Thursday, adding that new deaths may occur in the USA even with the lockdown, at a time when millions of Americans lost their jobs and unemployment rate reached high levels.

Trump is expected to announce new procedures about easing the lockdown later on Thursday after discussing it with the US governors.

So far, the USA recorded about 650,000 COVID-19 cases, about 29,000 of them died due to infection.

Coronavirus prevent Egyptians from celebrating Sham El-Nessim national holiday:

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered the full closure of public spaces including parks, gardens, and beaches ahead of Easter Sunday and Sham El-Nessim celebrations as part of state efforts to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

In a virtual meeting on Wednesday, Madbouly directed governors and security forces to focus on coastal governorates, and to use “utmost force” in deterring attempts at gathering and violating state measures against the pandemic.

Madbouly told governors, “You are fully responsible for implementing these measures. The coronavirus issue is under control, and to have the best results we have to prevent any gatherings.”

Sham el-Nessim is an Egyptian national holiday marking the beginning of spring, it always falls on the day after the Eastern Christian Easter following the custom of the largest Christian denomination in the country, the Coptic Orthodox Church. People spend all day out picnicking in any space of green, public gardens, on the Nile, eating traditional food eaten on this day consists mainly of fesikh (a fermented, salted and dried grey mullet), lettuce, scallions or green onions, tirmis, and colored boiled eggs.

On Dec. 31, 2019, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spread in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus has infected about 1,950,000 people until April 16, 2020 in more than 210 countries, about 135,000 of them died, according to the (Worldometer).

COVID-19 is an infectious disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2, that spreads from person-to-person and by respiratory droplets. These droplets fall on surrounding surfaces, so other people could be infected when they touch these surfaces by touching their eyes, noses, or mouths. People could be infected if they inhale droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it is important to keep a one-meter distance (three feet) away from infected people.

Infection symptoms include body aches, blocked nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. The symptoms begin as mild and develop gradually. Some people become infected without showing any symptoms and without feeling ill. About 80% of infected people recover from the disease without any special treatment.