The virus surge in the region of Syria has left it devastated by war

The number of Coronavirus cases is rising to the highest levels in a rebel stronghold of Syria. This is a devastating development in an area where scores of hospitals were bombed and where doctors and nurses fled in large numbers during a decade-long war.

The virus surge in the region of Syria has left it devastated by war

Since August began, the total number of Idlib-area cases has increased by more than twofold to over 61,000. This is an overcrowded area with 4 million people. Daily new infections have risen to more than 1,500 per day in recent weeks. Authorities reported 34 deaths on Sunday. However, these numbers are believed to be underestimated because many people who are infected don't report to authorities.

The situation is so bad in the northwestern province, that rescue workers known by the White Helmets (famous for finding victims under the rubble of bombings) now mostly transport coronavirus patients or the dead to the hospital.

The Idlib Doctors Syndicate declared this week that "What is occurring is a medical disaster", and appealed for international assistance.

Idlib is facing all the same challenges as other countries during the pandemic. Its intensive care units are full, tests are difficult and there are severe shortages in oxygen. The vaccination rollout has been slow.

Idlib's situation is a disaster because of extreme poverty and the civil war in Syria. Bombing has caused damage to half of the country's hospitals and health centers, and the system was in danger of collapse before the pandemic. Many medical professionals have fled the country in search of safety and better opportunities elsewhere. Tens of thousands of people live in tent settlements where social distancing is almost impossible and hand-washing is virtually non-existent. The situation is only getting worse due to the increasing violence in this region.

Large areas of Idlib and Aleppo remain under the control of Syria's armed resistance. They are dominated by radical groups like al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists.

In recent weeks, deaths and cases have been rising in government-held areas as well as those under control of U.S-backed Kurdish fighters in east. However, the situation in Idlib appears to be more dire, although it is difficult to determine the exact toll.

The political arm of the insurgent group, which runs Idlib, has shut down some markets and forced outdoor restaurants to offer only outdoor food. It also delayed the opening of schools by one week.

However, most residents are day laborers and would not be able to survive without their work. This makes full lockdowns difficult.

Ahmad Said, an Idlib resident, said that if they don't work they can't eat. He also added that most people can't afford masks.

A population that has been through so much is often too tired to comply with restrictions that were applied even in simpler circumstances.

Salwa Abdul-Rahman (an opposition activist who covers events in Idlib) said, "It's as if people are used to death." "Those who weren't killed by Russian airstrikes and regime are now being killed by coronavirus."

Although the vaccination campaign has been slow, 350,000 doses a Chinese vaccine arrived earlier in the month. This could be a positive sign. The World Health Organization estimates that only 2.5% of Idlibians have received at least one shot.

This virus outbreak comes 18 months after relative calm was restored in Idlib by a truce between Russia and Turkey, which support the opposing sides in Syria's conflict. Numerous people have been killed or injured by airstrikes and artillery bombardment by government forces in recent weeks.

Dr. Muhammad Abdullah, al-Ziraa Hospital, says that there are no signs yet that the outbreak is at its peak.

For some Idlib residents, however, being infected is not a concern.

Ali Dalati, a resident who walked through a market in a maskless state, said that "we have been through more difficult situations then coronavirus." "We don't fear coronavirus."

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