Warring parties in Syria must stop fighting "to avoid further catastrophe", UN investigators said on Saturday, as the first cases of the COVID-19 epidemic are recorded in a country already torn apart by nine years of war.
The UN fears large numbers of preventable deaths may follow although Damascus has reported only five cases of the novel coronavirus so far.
"Syrian civilians now face a deadly threat in the form of the COVID-19 outbreak, one that will strike without distinction and that will be devastating for the most vulnerable in the absence of urgent preventative action," said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The parties must heed calls for a ceasefire or face a "looming tragedy", Pinheiro said, adding: "Anything short of that will likely condemn large numbers of civilians to preventable deaths."
Just 64 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of primary healthcare centers that existed before 2011 are functioning, and 70 percent of the country's health workers have left.
Source: Daily Mail.