War-ravaged Syria on Sunday confirmed its first case of the coronavirus after weeks of rejecting opposition allegations that the disease had already reached a country with a wrecked health system and thousands of Iranian-backed militias and Shi’ite pilgrims, Reuters reported.
Health Minister Nizar al-Yaziji told state media “necessary measures” had been taken regarding the 20-year-old woman, who he said would be quarantined for 14 days and given medical checks.
There have been unconfirmed reports in recent weeks of coronavirus cases in Syria, whose health system, housing and infrastructure have been ravaged by nine years of civil war, but the authorities have denied any outbreak or cover-up.
The virus has been spreading in neighbouring countries. U.N. officials and humanitarian workers fear a major outbreak in Syria could be particularly catastrophic.
Damascus announced a ban on public transport on Sunday as it stepped up a lockdown introduced in recent days, including the closure of schools, parks, restaurants and various public institutions, as well as calling off army conscription.
President Bashar al Assad issued a prisoner amnesty on Sunday, according to state media, which said it was a move to relieve congestion that risked the spread of the virus, Reuters adds
In an unprecedented move, bakeries across the country would no longer open for citizens and bread would be delivered by distributors to homes to prevent mingling by customers during hours waiting in long queues, state media said.
Medics say the country is also vulnerable with thousands of Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside Assad’s forces, who maintain a strong presence in Syria’s big cities and have their headquarters in the Damascus Shi’ite suburb of Sayeda Zainab.