Aid agencies are moving to prevent a novel coronavirus outbreak in conflict-plagued northwestern Syria, where damaged health infrastructure and massive displacement make containment a nearly impossible task.
Syria has not yet confirmed any coronavirus cases but its "fragile health systems may not have the capacity to detect and respond" to an epidemic, Hedinn Halldorsson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, told AFP.
The risk of an outbreak is especially high and most alarming in Syria's northwest, where some three million people are trapped in a shrinking opposition bastion battered by months of bombardment.
With close to one million people displaced since December by a Russian-backed regime offensive on the Idlib region, overcrowded settlements are teeming with fresh arrivals, and many of the displaced are sleeping rough in freezing temperatures.
Medical facilities have been targeted during the latest bombing campaign, further reducing the capacity of a health system ravaged by nearly nine years of conflict.
Unable to provide services from regime-held territory inside Syria, the WHO provides cross-border assistance to opposition-held Idlib via Turkey, Halldorsson said.
Health personnel are being trained, "and laboratories in both Idlib and Ankara are being prepared and stocked to safely test and diagnose the virus," he added.
Source: Asharq Al-Awsat.