War-torn Syria braces for lockdown after first virus case

Syrians rushed to stock up on food and fuel Monday amid fears that authorities would resort to even stricter measures after reporting the first coronavirus infection in the country, where the healthcare system has been decimated by nearly a decade of civil war.

According to the World Health Organization, testing for the novel coronavirus is to start within days in northwest Syria, amid fears of a disaster if the pandemic reaches overcrowded displacement camps.

“Testing will be available in Idlib in two days,” WHO spokesman Hedinn Halldorsson said on Monday.

Some 300 COVID-19 diagnostic kits are to be delivered to a laboratory in Idlib city on Wednesday and “testing should start shortly afterwards”, he said.

An additional 2,000 tests would be delivered as soon as possible, he added.

So far three suspected cases in northwest Syria have tested negative after hospitals sent samples to Turkey, Halldorsson said, but fears remain high.

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